Monday, July 06, 2009

Kazimir Strzepek's The Mourning Star 2 really works for me. It functions sort of like a 1980s black and white fantasy comic, but with the revelations of twenty years worth of craft development behind it. Rather than be published in serialized pamphlets, it comes out as a book, which gives the fight scenes room to breathe- a trick some people learned from manga, but here, the way that action plays out feels more influenced by Mat Brinkman comics. Partly I could be picking that up from the book's square size: post-nineties, comics don't need to be taller than they are wide, and I think the squat size keeps the action moving, while also feeling really intimate, and just fun to hold in the hand.

The book also starts off with the story's presumed villains, which makes them approach sympathetic-character status, in a way similar to how CF's Powr Mastrs comics move between characters working at cross purposes. Sure, at the opening they might not be seeming likable, but when a never-before-seen character shows up, doesn't speak, and brutally murders people seen sleeping next to their wives, the fact that they're parts of the ruling empire depicted as antagonists to the rest of the main characters doesn't seem to matter as much.

(Oh, speaking of CF- the Mark Lord tape on the Rare Youth label is pretty great. The Mark Lord stuff has this techno/industrial beat moving the noise into a more pop direction, where Kites - on Peace Trials and the occasional tape- had folk music and clear vocals as reference points grounding the chaos.)

In another strain of influence, there's something of Jeff Smith's Bone in the character's dominant cuteness, as something anthropomorphic but unrecognizable. But that comic didn't work for me the way this does, seeming to exist in a harsher world. Partly the post-apocalyptic setting, and the focus on survival, serve to move it away from the tropes of fantasy that I find tedious, but it also moves the book closer to its real formal strength: The contrast between the cute and the brutal powers the book. The way the cute, uniformly well-designed characters look when suddenly cut in half. The way the square shape sits nicely in the hand and keeps you moving through the action sequences quickly. The way Bone and Fort Thunder are reconciled.

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