Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Minis: KC Krumpholz, AJ McGuire, M.Kalra

Taking on some idiosyncratic items here...

Succour Fanzine Issue #2, by AJ McGuire, illustrations by Dylan Chadwick. This is a highly entertaining zine about comics by a critic who would be ideally suited doing short pieces for the old Comics Journal, if that still existed. Actually, if I was the Journal's editor, I'd hire him right now to do a monthly "review of reviewers" column that he did here, reminiscent of an old feature from SPY. McGuire successfully stradldles the line between snark and sincerity, as he genuinely has things to say about comics and not just random potshots or quips. His "Essays About Comics I Have Considered Writing" is similarly both funny and pointed. The brief interview of and four pages of interesting drawings by Craig Ronan rounded out this short but compelling zine that revealed McGuire's aesthetic as much as it did Ronan's. McGuire points out the tension between abstraction and figuration in the drawings, and Ronan notes that it's that tension that makes it interesting. I'd say there's also a tension between McGuire's love of comics and his disappointment in both them and the industry, and it's his genuine investment in comics that makes this a compelling read.

World-Changing, by Mohar Kalra. This is a first attempt at a short story by a high school senior, and it shows a lot of promise and ambition. It's a story about an earnest young man named Jim, a dreamer-type, who silently judges others while overinflating his own importance and worth--alone, naturally. He gets kicked out of a bar, loses his wallet and simply sits on the sidewalk, pondering others, imagining himself as a hero, and generally fantasizing that he can somehow change the world with his ideas, even if they are a bit on the megalomaniacal side. Then a young woman interrupts his reverie and essentially joins right in. Jim has found a kindred spirit and doesn't quite understand that he's been handed a tremendous opportunity. In the end, he messes it up by losing her number, and Kalra extrapolates to him being old and lonely, having squandered a shot at connection, at happiness. Kalra's line is understandably on the rough side, but there's nothing wrong with the ambition of his page composition. Every page varies in terms of layout depending on what's happening, whether it's Jim in his dreams or Jim staring at others in panel after panel. Kalra is a solid storyteller who also understands the use of negative space and how to lead the eye across a complicated page with a minimum of difficulty. While his character design is a bit shaky, the young woman (Jen) has an interesting look that immediately catches the eye of the reader, a look that's idiosyncratic yet entirely personal. Hopefully, Kalra keeps going with this, because this is very strong work for someone who is this young and has no formal training.

An Introduction To Alcohol, by Karl Christian Krumholz. Krumholz writes funny, hard-bitten stories about the various people he's encountered and the stories he's heard from years of hanging out in pleasingly seedy bars, with Denver being the most fruitful of his targets. This comic is a collection of strips he did about his relationship with his now-dead father. His father was a classic alcoholic jock, bringing his kid to bars with him and ordering young Karl Shirley Temples to drink. There are a number of telling quotes that Krumholz emphasizes in the story, like when young Karl wants to leave because "it smells weird in here", and his father says "Yes, it does..but if you're anything like me,'ll find yourself in these kind of places a lot. Better get used to it." Of course, this would come true, only with Krumholz fashioning himself a hard-drinking writer-artist instead of a jock, a subject that would divide them their entire lives.

Krumholz walks the line between glorifying crazed alcoholics in his strips, having empathy for them and depicting just how awful their lives are, but he always does it with a laugh. In these stories about his dad, the laughs are far more scarce. It tracks Karl's first taste of alcohol, driving his shitfaced dad home from a baseball game, and getting punched in the jaw hard by his father for the offense of walking in front of the TV. The punchline of the comic is that by the time Karl grew up and started drinking (a story about the first time he got drunk was puke-tastic and funny), his dad had gotten clean and got religion. No matter what, never the twain did meet between the two of them, but despite Karl's protestations, he showed himself to be more like his father than he was willing to admit. Everything about Krumholz' work is about exaggeration: hard angles, dead eyes, and even a melancholic blue wash throughout the issue. There are times where that exaggeration is almost too much, like when his father punches him, but Krumholz follows through no matter what--both in terms of what he draws and how he draws it.

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