North Adams Transcript
"Heads or Tails" by Lilli Carre (Fantagraphics)
The multi-faceted Lilli Carre -- author, illustrator, animator -- presents stories that are as gentle as they are cryptic, in which the darkness of her themes meld perfectly with the sweetness of her style.
In "Heads Or Tails," Carre’s short work is collected and celebrated, revealing a creator of power, easily on the level with lauded types like Chris Ware, just more accessible thanks to the innate humanity of her presentation.
Among the best are: "Wishy Washy," about a flower show judge who, following an accident, loses all sense of the "je ne sais quoi" that tunes him into the subtleties of life; "The Thing About Madeleine," previously presented in the 2011 volume of Houghton Mifflin’s "Best American Comics" anthology, has Carre at her most Twilight Zone-ish, as the down and out title character finds a more successful doppelganger slowly taking over her personal space and reveling in an identity that she has squandered; and "The Carnival" and "Too Hot To Sleep" both portray unexpected encounters between two lost souls who seem distanced from their own lives, but aren’t sure the alternative being presented is as transcendent as they’d hoped.
In the most challenging story, "Rainbow Moment," Carre takes one conversation narrative and uses it to delve into further stories within stories until it comes time to snap back to the beginning.
The book is rounded out by a number of one-pagers with poetic and surreal that covers everything from the beauty of not having a head to man-on-plant love to a collector of human hands, each with Carre’s typical spare, matter-of-fact narration, but with a haiku quality that demands even more attention of the reader than any of the longer works.
"What Am I Going To Do Without You" by Patt Kelly (Top Shelf Productions)
This beautiful little cartoon meditation on mortality, regret and rebirth follows through the lives of several people in the wake of a strange scientific event -- some boys in the woods discover the carcass of a dead dinosaur. Thing is, the dinosaur had been living and only died just prior to the finding.
The news reports on television come into the lives of several citizens, affecting some with wonder and excitement, while others ignore it and focus on their own problems. Among the participants in the tapestry are Jeanie, a teenage girl being bullied for her goth wardrobe and pulling away from her parents, and Murray and FLo, an elderly couple coping with mortality and the imminent end that’s staring them in the face.
If Kelly’s art seems to herald in some kind of underground humor strip, the humanity and depth of the writing quickly steer you in the opposite direction, and the art style unexpectedly manages to come together with the words in a powerful way, lending a surrealism that only intensifies the situation.
This is a great way to enter the world of digital comics at a price that can’t be beat.
Purchase online at www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/what-am-i-going-to-do-without-you/805.