Comics reviews: The Making Of, Birdseye Bristoe, Gloriana

A lot of you left Comic-Con with the latest scoop on movies, TV shows, and toys. But what about comics? I finally finished my stash of advance and new titles from my favorite page pushers out of Montreal, and here are my takes. Of course, you should buy own copies at Giant Robot on Sawtelle or your local indie bookstore.

If you read the interview with Brecht Evens that I posted a couple of weeks ago, you already know about his painterly style, colorful aesthetic, and deceptively loose panels. It turns out that his artwork is beautiful to look at and fun to talk about but belie the Belgian artist’s formal composition and masterful storytelling. The Making Of tells the tale of a liberated artist who is expected to liven up an uptight art festival. The story addresses art, partying, and sex, and the effect is not cautionary or sordid but liberated. The subtly playful tone–as well as the subtle randomness, slapstick, and artfulness–remind me more of Blake Edwards’ The Party than any comic book that I’ve ever read, and it’s as much of a page-turner as it is a mind-blower.

D. Zettwoch’s Birdseye Bristoe isn’t exactly bedtime reading. Every over-sized page is crammed with images, words, and references, and the point of view not only shifts between the main characters but smaller ones as well. To further challenge skimmers with short attention spans, the saga about a high-tech cell phone tower being erected in a small, rustic town is complemented by an unending barrage of asides that range from science fair projects to science fiction. (In the spread above, you can see not only a reference to the geodesic form that appears on the Suicidal Tendencies debut album but a footnote to Gamera movies.) It’s a testament to Zettwoch’s skill as a storyteller that the barrage of information enhances the mood and builds up the tension rather than diffuse or distract from the plot.

The stories in the brand-new hardcover expanded collection of Glen Ganges strips by Kevin Huizenga typically begin with everyday events that trigger existential and scientific daydreams. As you read each story, you can feel the pacing quicken as the protagonist’s mind begins to wander and his fast-moving logic mutates into fantasy. History, astronomy, writing utensils, basketball, and Gamera (again!) are only some of the topics that are mixed and matched as simple errands lead to the end of the world. However, Gloriana never becomes close to boring or pretentious, as Huizenga is as self-deprecatingly committed to the humility of mini comics as he is to pushing the possibilities of the form.