Over on the CBR mothership, Tim Callahan takes a close look at two books sure to be shortlisted for Best of 2010 honors in another month or two: CF's Powr Mastrs 3 and Brian Chippendale's If 'n Oof, both from PictureBox Inc. Tim argues that the two books' combination of sci-fi/fantasy trappings with the oblique storytelling techniques and challenging visuals of art-comics create the same sense of wonder and discovery that comics held for him as a kid. Here he is on Power Mastrs:
...that shocking sense of uncertainty and even anxiety – what do these characters want, exactly, and why are they doing what they're doing – creates a distinct sense of wonder.
I don't mean that as a joke, in the sense that we wonder what the heck is going on, although that is partially true, but in the sense that the world of New China, mapped out by C. F. obliquely in the opening pages of the volume, is a bizarre and unfamiliar place, even though it feels familiar because of the archetypal characters and cleanly-designed pages. For me, it resonates because it recalls the very thing that drew me to comics as a young reader, that sense that within a given issue you can only see a corner of a much larger fictional world, and all of the character interactions are strange because the years (or decades) of history only hinted at.
And here he is on If 'n Oof:
It's a post-apocalyptic fantasy quest story, half Jack Kirby, half Disney/Pixar, but with an art scene edge. Yet, like "Powr Mastrs," it doesn't seem to be doing any of this ironically, saying, "Ha, look at how cool we are to make fun of these comics and stories that we liked as kids." It pulls its influences into itself and tries to tell a genuine story within that artistic shell.
And it succeeds, emphatically.
Like my discussion of "Powr Mastrs," I won't bother summarizing the plot of "If n' Oof," even though it would be a much simpler task in this case. I will say that it's basically a buddy story, with a few dream-like yet sci-fi twists and with an adventure in a strange landscape. I referenced Kirby, and, like the work of Gary Panter, it's Kirby's primal physicality filtered through a punk aesthetic. It's "Kamandi" with less attempt at making sense out of a futuristic world, but with no less of a sense of adventure into weirdness.
Both books may be off the beaten path for the average Robot 6 reader, but I think it's a detour worth taking. Read Tim's whole column and see if you agree.