If ever there’s been a time where I’ve been tempted to have a column literally consist of “[Name of Comic]. You guys. [Name of Comic Repeated for Emphasis],” then it’d be today, because Ganges #4. You guys. Ganges #4.
I’ve written before about my love of Kevin Huizenga’s work, but reading the latest issue of Ganges, I started thinking about the ways in which his work reminds me of another of my favorite creators, Eddie Campbell. Like Campbell, Huizenga creates some level of fictionalized memoir, recreating themselves – or, parts of themselves, at least; I don’t think there’s as direct a connection for Huizenga as there is for Campbell – as characters for some of their most well known, most successful work; as Campbell becomes Alec McGarry, Huizenga becomes Glenn Ganges. But both creators’ work is… I don’t want to say non-mainstream, because that makes it sound inaccessible when nothing could be further from the truth, but there’s something about the way that both are interested in something that is quieter, less obvious that most comics and comic creators, and that they employ methods that aren’t exactly the norm, nonetheless.
This isn’t to say that their work is actually that similar, because Campbell is ultimately much more straightforward both in terms of execution and subject matter than Huizenga, who gets… more cosmic, in a way. For example, the plot of Ganges #4 is, essentially, that Glenn Ganges can’t sleep, and his mind wanders as he tries to, which doesn’t really sound like something that is a strong contender for my favorite comic of the year. But it’s all in the execution; not just the choices of things that Glenn’s insomniac mind fills with (The obsessing about the calendar and everything that lies ahead is depressingly familiar to me, I have to admit), but the way that Huizenga visualizes the whole thing. Again, as in so many of his books, there’s formal play and experimentation happening here that’s akin to creating new language for comics in some way – Reading Glenn’s endless night as pages that bleed past the edge of the page, or the way Huizenga takes the calendar motif to abstraction and back again – and impressive even outside of its role in the storytelling.
There’s also more… ambivalence, perhaps, in Huizenga’s work than Campbell’s, which has always had a strong authorial voice (Something that’s always been a massive selling point for Alec, for me). Huizenga is anything but a passive creator, but he’s one that is more than happy to let his work speak for itself, as opposed to leading the reader to any particular conclusion. Ganges #4 feels like the furthest he’s gone in this direction for awhile, with so many silent panels and abstract sequences – it’s a comic that engages the reader in the sense of essentially expecting them to act as co-author, which makes it an especially rewarding read. But, despite all of this, there’s a humanity that’s present throughout the whole thing, a kindness of sorts. That might be what brought Eddie Campbell to mind, the first time I read it; the feeling, while reading, that this was actually someone’s life I was looking into, as complex and scattered and uncertain and sleepless as the rest of us.
Ganges #4 isn’t a quick read, and it isn’t necessarily an easy read. But it’s a great one, and it’s something that everyone should be picking up and reading. It’ll keep you awake at nights.