Comics Time: Mome Vol. 20: Fall 2010

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Mome Vol. 20: Fall 2010
Dash Shaw, Sara Edward-Corbett, The Partridge in the Pear Tree, Josh Simmons, T. Edward Back, Conor O’Keefe, Nate Neal, Michael Jada, Derek Van Gieson, Steven Weissman, Sergio Ponchione, Jeremy Tinder, Aidan Koch, Nicholas Mahler, Ted Stearn, Adam Grano, writers/artists
Eric Reynolds, editor
Fantagraphics, October 2010
120 pages
$14.99
Buy it from Fantagraphics
Buy it from Amazon.com

(Programming note: Taking a brief break from LOVE AND ROCKTOBER today as this book hits stores.)

“5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics”–that’s how the relatively sparse introductory text describes this landmark installment in Fantagraphics’ flagship anthology series, which I believe at this point has produced more pages of comics than any other such English-language effort. It sees a redesign of the series’ iconic cover layout and a quartet of series debuts, from altcomix known-quantities Jeremy Tinder, Steven Weissman, and Sergio Ponchione, plus Aidan Koch. Paul Lynde and Lil Wayne also make their first appearances in the series. So, big shit poppin’ in Mome 20. Good thing it’s also pretty good!

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the usual stuff I’m not feeling. Nate Neal’s broad schtick, Ted Stearn’s Fuzz & Pluck (despite some wicked crosshatching), and Nicholas Mahler’s anecdotal autobio never amuse me the way they’re supposed to. Conor O’Keefe’s impeccable McKay-by-watercolor riffs remain more lovely than compelling. T. Edward Bak’s biography of explorer and naturalist Georg Steller still comes across as stiff and disjointed despite some hardcore sex in this installment. And Mome newcomer/Ignatz veteran Ponchione’s studied cartoony character designs don’t communicate anything to me.

But what works works really well thanks mostly to bravura cartooning. Dash Shaw captures the awkward performative heterosexuality of an episode of Blind Date in his adaptation, rendered in a TV-screen-glow green and making the most of his tendency to render people as gestures rather than figures. Sara Edward-Corbett crafts a little funny-animal fable about an ill-fated menage that’s her strongest and most emotionally troubling work to date; the more I look at it the more I realize that no one else in alternative comics has a line that emphasizes its line-ness the way hers does. Josh Simmons’s collaboration with The Partridge in the Pear Tree continues to ratchet up the uncomfortable with the introduction of a leering, sweating, quipping Paul Lynde as a protagonist, chased here by a massive, gorgeously colored slug-pachyderm the size of one of the AT-ATs from The Empire Strikes Back; it’s called the Jiggaboo. (Good Lord.) Michael Jada and Derek Van Gieson’s shadowy World War II story begins with a literal bang, one of the most powerfully drawn gunshots I’ve seen in comics. Steven Weissman’s scratchy black-and-white-and-zipatone art actually works better for me in this harsh, slippery story of memory and loss than it does in his humor stuff. Jeremy Tinder is taking his funny-animal stuff further out and getting sharper as he goes, adding in an artcomix influence to boot. Aidan Koch seems to draw poetic twentysomething slice-of-lifers as tenderly and attractively as anyone currently doing that. And Adam Grano encourages us to Free Weezy, always welcome advice. Here’s to 20 more volumes of this occasionally frustrating, occasionally fascinating, always worth reading series.