Comics Time: Artichoke Tales

Photobucket

Artichoke Tales

Megan Kelso, writer/artist

Fantagraphics, 2010

232 pages, hardcover

$22.99

Buy it from Fantagraphics

Buy it from Amazon.com

Over a decade in the making, and it shows. This is far and away the best comic I’ve ever read from Megan Kelso, succeeding on almost every level. Her clear-line style gives an airy ease to her often detail-heavy drawings of nature and the people who inhabit it; similarly, her complex exercise in fantasy worldbuilding–and I don’t mean detailed maps with funny names, I mean real worldbuilding, constructing cultural and religious and economic structures rooted in environment and history and exerting macro and micro influence across the lives of all the characters involved–is subsumed into an absorbing, briskly moving house-divided family soap opera. So many elements in her tale of a land divided between its agricultural South and industrial North jumped out and demanded to be contemplated and enjoyed: Those appealing artichoke-head character designs. The Queen who fails her people in disastrously bloody fashion despite the good intentions of an entire system dedicated to her success. The way Kelso tells a byzantine multigenerational tale replete with flashbacks and jumps back and forth in time and space and the age of the characters involved while hardly ever telegraphing any of it, creating the impression of a tapestry of inescapable memory and history always influencing the present. The thoughtful, almost cerebral treatment of attraction, sex, and marriage. Heck, even the de rigeur fantasy trope of placing the actions of singular actors at the pivot points of world history is made to feel here less like the denial of the huge impersonal forces that drive human events more often than not than as some a logical, representative outgrowth of them. And man, that clear line is just sick. I dug this book to a degree that surprised me and look forward to returning to it. It’s a rich vein of alt-fantasy being tapped here.