Under the Radar reviews Huizenga's "Gloriana"

“Gloriana” / Under The Radar Magazine / Jeremy Nisen / July 9, 2012

This newly reissued reprint of Kevin Huizenga's book from 2001 exemplifies how the artist is a master of shifting perspective. During four stories, we telescope into highly personal moments and out into wide views of physical space and out even more into scientific overviews of phenomena. Gloriana also sees Huizenga playing with time, sequence, and imagination in a manner that defines his storytelling voice and separates him from the crowd.

The third story, "The Moon Rose," may be both the best and worst of the lot: while interesting on balance, the scientific explanation of the red moon phenomena drags on ponderously akin to reading comic academia such as Understanding Comics rather than engaging a reader in a narrative. This contrasts with most alt-bio comics, which tend to be ponderous due to naval-gazing, not illustrated physics...so Gloriana can bear it well. And the payoff at the end of the story is punchy, rings true, and oh so worth it. "Basketball" is probably the most straight-forward story, and most emotionally engaging, as it shares family history and taps into experiences many must have when one leaves behind or otherwise outgrows an activity once central to his or her life.

The cartooning throughout is really lovely; in addition to the deft use of camera perspective, Huizenga employs shading and light, panel spacing, and quite effective facial expressions to set a mood.

At its best, Gloriana finds a way to capture the reader by exploring the relatively mundane. It hits a rare sweet spot, effective as art comics and as straight-up narrative. Good stuff.

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