The Austin Chronicle Reviews OR ELSE & BABEL!

“Big Books” / The Austin Chronicle / Wayne Alan Brenner / December 10, 2004

From Kevin Huizenga's Or Else No. 1

New Comics

There's a goddamn slew of good new comics overflowing the edges of publishing's ink-stained cornucopia right now, just in time for your holiday shopping. Here are a few of what you and your visually literate friends and family will likely enjoy the hell out of.

Fantagraphics' Blab! No. 15, the latest in their annual Monte Beauchamp-edited anthology, is the usual sequential art gallery between two covers, gorgeously reproducing new work by Camille Rose Garcia, David Sandlin, Sue Coe, Nicolas Debon, and others; it's an oversized, full-color compendium of dreams and nightmares from some of the finest illustrators alive. In My Darkest Hour, also from the Big F, is a gritty portrait of a still-kinda-young Latino trying to find stability (or anything worthwhile) in his transient, bipolar life. The creator, Wilfred Santiago, possesses skills reminiscent of Dave McKean, and his expert collaging of photos into the mix will break your heart almost as much as his characters do.

Alternative Comics tempts gift-buyers with Joel Orff's beautifully rendered Waterwise, a subtle and moving evocation of friendship and shared memories. Published earlier this year by AC, yet still blazing in our mind's eye, is Rebecca Dart's RabbitHead; if we wanted to present a friend with a comic that'd intrigue her and, as the hippies would say, "fuck up her headspace," this innovative, wordless wonder would be what she'd get.

Not content to rest on their various Adrian-Seth-Julie-Chester laurels, Canada's Drawn & Quarterly has issued two new series. Babel by David (Epileptic) B. begins the story of a young boy's waking quest to find his dream-time King of the World; it's a two-color masterpiece of narrative and graphic design. Kevin Huizenga's Or Else No. 1 is a collection of short pieces ranging from the delightful scenes of "NST '04" to the bizarre mythos of "Jeezoh."

Or, you can get comics direct from their creators. And, especially when those creators have been recipients of a Xeric Foundation grant, you'll find the same high production values you'd get from company-generated books. Josh Neufeld's A Few Perfect Hours is a collection of nonfiction stories about Neufeld and his wife Sari's recent adventures in Southeast Asia and Central Europe. It's a volume like the very best travel writing – "Like Paul Theroux, but with pictures!" a friend said – and just the thing to gift someone who's going (or returning from) overseas.

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