Aidan Koch is a lady who I'm fairly certain attended The Evergreen State College at the same time I did. She is my age, if not in terms of specifics, than in terms of generalities; which is to say, young. I have never had any conversations about her, but I can guess where she is coming from when I read her book, The Whale, published by Gaze Books.
Gaze Books' first publication was Blaise Larmee's Young Lions. I appreciate Blaise sending me another book after I wrote what most would consider a bad review. Like, I think it's a funny prank to keep sending someone work they're not really interested in, that isn't going to coincide with their interests. I support all pranks. Maybe eventually I will start evaluating the books on their own terms.
The Whale is a comic about dealing with the death of someone close. It is not as emotionally devastating as Anders Nilsen's The End, nor is it as formally audacious. It's not trying to be punch you in the gut with raw emotion. To me it is more about the feeling of the beaches of the Pacific Northwest, where the water is too cold for comfort and you just stand on the beach with your head empty.
What do we mean when we say "comics as poetry?" (When I say "we," I should point out that I don't think I would ever actually use that phrase, the same way that I wouldn't say "art comic" the way that people are using it nowadays.) When I read a comic like this, I think of it as being slight, but also sincere and direct. Does it flatter the work to put it out as a book with a spine? An actual book of poetry of this type would contain many more poems. You don't charge someone five dollars for a single haiku. (This comic costs ten dollars.)
Do I think the comic, "The Whale," could pretty much be eight pages long and not lose much? Yes. When I think of what is being conveyed- a method of drawing, wistful melancholia stemming from a place of loss, a bit of metaphor- I think it could be gotten across in a minicomic, and a few of those minicomics could one day form a book that would make sense on a bookshelf and constitute a major work. In dealing with it, it is probably best to view it as a minicomic. Granted, it's priced a bit steep for a black and white minicomic, but is only a little more expensive than something with silkscreened covers would be. I can imagine such a swap occurring between people viewing themselves as equals with different design aesthetics.
Maybe it would seem as if I am talking about the Closed Captioned Comics folks with that last remark. Lane Milburn made a perfect-bound paperback for his last publication, Death Trap. Lane is a dude I actually have had conversations with, and I got the impression that he is dialing back such handcraft elements in favor of an emphasis on the craft of comics as a thing you read. With these modifications in presentation, Lane's book reads like a deliberate response to horror manga. It feels appropriate, a thing that makes sense with a real sense of itself. On the other hand, if Aidan's comic had been a minicomic with a precious and ornate form, I would probably be more psyched on it. I imagine most readers would feel the same way. But that's not how the book-publishing game works, I suppose, and until the people of Portland work out a way to steal photocopies, Gaze Books will have 1000 copies of The Whale for sale to interested parties.