February 5, 2009

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Sweaterweather

Written by Sara Varon
Illustrated by Sara Varon
Alternative Press

I really enjoyed Robot Dreams, and so I was happy to find this one, which was her debut novel. A collection of short stories featuring the same style of characters as Dreams, there's an experimental feel that reminds me more of zines published in a larger format (I don't mean that as an insult).

There's a cute opening tale about a tortoise and hare that share a shell to keep out the cold, as well as another wintery tale of hibernation and snowmen. Neither use (nor need) words to tell their story, letting the visuals take the reader across time to the heartwarming conclusions.

Perhaps most interesting is Varon's experiment with making each panel match up with a letter of the alphabet, which explains why Q-bert shows up for no apparent reason. There's a few cute nods when you go back to look after learning the premise, but I think my favorite are Varon's shout-outs to indy magazines for women.

Varon's experiments also include panel blurring, repetition of styles and even a few times where panels are eliminated entirely for the Eisner blended page effect. For a comic like this one, I really enjoy seeing artists experiment with the medium to see what they can do.

Other tricks are just odd ideas that might be out of place elsewhere but somehow work within the context of this book, such as cutout dolls (with details on both sides and a warning not to cut up library books), a party invitiation, postcards, and even fake stamps. Again, this reminds me more of something done by a person sharing his or her work with friends rather than a published effoft for national release. (In other words, just the type of thing that won't hit Diamond anymore.)

There are other stories in Sweaterweather, all of which show off Varon's storytelling skills, such as the wing-growing fantasy or the creation of a pool within a turtle shell or even the strangely compelling essay on beekeeping. If you're looking for a potpouri of material from one author, Sweaterweather should be just the thing for you.