Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #30 - December 1997
Publisher: Alternative Press
Story & Art: Jon Lewis
Cover Price: $2.95
Issues Available: 4
Spectacles is an anthology of tales, all by a single artist, Jon
Lewis. And like Daniel Clowes' Eightball, it's an anthology with
some continuing tales, and some one-shots and vignettes.
One of the continuing tales in Spectacles involves a
wandering Finn, a fading rock star, a husband escaping from his wife by
playing dead, and a thief on the lam in a magical land. Another
continuing tale is about a bunch of housemates at a college,
tolerating each other as they go about their lives.
Vignettes and one-shots include a tale of a man whose close
encounter with a possum which enters his house leads him into a
relationship with a southern girl, a story of a photographer who
gets up unusually early one morning and finds a dawn-lit world
he never knew existed right there in his own city, and a tale of
animals living together in a mystical post-apocalyptic society.
Jon Lewis doesn't write novels. He doesn't write stories,
either - he writes scenes and characters and emotions. His brief
biographical takes are at once personal and general, fables for the
modern world. Even his seminal work, the classic True Swamp,
wasn't so much a single narrative as a series of vignettes in the
life of a paranoid tree frog.
Like a walk through a dreamscape, Jon's stories make an
unexpected sort of internal sense as you follow them through
their amblings and sidings. When "real life" stories appear (like
the possum tale, or the photographer's tale), Jon proves a deft
hand at expressing people's feelings and thoughts, but he's at his
best when he's spinning mystical yarns in half-familiar lands, and
Spectacles is clearly going to feature many tales in that direction,
especially with the ongoing "Frost Changes" (art sample above)
and the neat "Shell Men" in issue 3 (art sample to the left).
Jon's chunky, thick, unfinished style reminds me of Colin
Upton's earlier works in its brevity, yet it gets the point across
and usually succeeds in conveying the emotions Jon seems to be
aiming for. His style seems to rub against the grain when he
attempts to render realistic scenes, but when his subject becomes
more iconic - when he's doing stories about magical lands and
itinerant magicians, and especially when he's drawing tales of
animals - his sparse art only seems to heighten the effect of the
writing. Jon seems to be moving more towards iconic tales in
Spectacles, with increasing success in the overall blend.
Spectacles is an easy sell to fans of Jon's earlier works, the
fabulous True Swamp and its follow-up Ghost Ship. Also try it
out with fans of Colin Upton (Buddha On The Road, Big Thing),
Tom Hart (Sands), James Kochalka (Magic Boy), and
Chester Brown (Underwater).
Readers of Eightball may enjoy the similar story types
(though radically different art styles), and fans of Mythography
should check out this one-man heavy-on-fantasy anthology too.
If you like Spectacles, take a look at:
Publisher: Cryptic Press
Story: Dave Roman
Art: John Green
Cover Price: $2.95
Frequency: Every four months
Issues Available: 3
Jacqueline "Jax" Epoch is your typical teenage girl. She's
hanging out with her boyfriend and a bunch of guys when they
decide to ransack an abandoned office building in Manhattan. But
Jax gets more than she expected when she discovers the reason
the building's abandoned: an unstable dimensional rift created by
scientists attempting to explore other worlds. In short order, Jax
has vanished into the rift and found herself exploring a landscape
both unfamiliar and unnatural.
When she manages to find her way back out again, days have
passed in the real world, and she's shocked to discover that
another version of herself has been living her life while she's
been away - and she doesn't exactly approve of what this other
self has done. But her otherworldly journey has triggered a chain
of events which weakens the barrier between the worlds.
Then, a dragon appears in the New York sky...
Parallel-world fantasy with mystical components, Quicken
Forbidden is at once engaging light adventure and deeper
exploration of the themes of responsibility, chaos vs order, and the
power of the individual to affect the world.
It's fun to watch Jax make puppy-eyes at her boyfriend and
follow escaped rabbits through dimensional wormholes, yet it's
also clear Jax is no angel: she has a tendency to take things which
aren't hers. The character of Jax really shines throughout this
book, though it's a shame the other characters haven't been
fleshed out enough to seem real yet.
The plot through three issues has been complicated and
somewhat over-full, but not so much it's unfollowable, nor so
disconnected that it falls apart. A number of different plot elements
have been thrown in at once, though, which can make it difficult
to maintain reader interest when a book is as occasional as QF.
John's art is generally solid and expressive, though he's still
learning. Occasionally, background faces are awkward and panel
sizes and borders are occasionally jarring, but the storytelling is
definitely there, with varied camera angles and nice action
scenes. The use of Jax's glasses to occasionally "hide" her eyes is
quite effective as well. He also handles the various locales
(through the rift, in the office, at home, etc) with nice variety. All
in all, a solid job that complements the light-adventure story.
Quicken Forbidden follows in the footsteps of Akiko,
Pakkins' Land, and Skeleton Key and will satisfy their
though it has a definitely darker edge. Fans of Lewis Carroll's
"Alice In Wonderland" books will enjoy QF (especially with the
many Alice references), as will people who enjoy films like "The
Neverending Story" and "Warriors of Virtue". Try this one with
readers of Galaxion, A Distant Soil, or Wandering Star,
If you like Quicken Forbidden, take a look at:
Cold Cut Distribution
220 N Main St. - Salinas, CA 93901 - (831) 751-7300