July 5, 2009

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Rosetta 2

Written and Illustrated by Various Creators, including Jason, Michael Kupperman, Craig Thompson, Paul Pope, Jason Lutes and LAT
Alternative Comics

I read this when I was on a business trip, which is funny because the back cover features people going though an airport security checkpoint. I didn't do that on purpose; it just happened.

What I did do was read yet another nifty anthology filled with creators I knew and many others I did not. There are 26 stories in here, and I am not going to try to run through them all. However, here are some highlights that I particularly enjoyed.

Jason leads off with a short comic piece involving a laundromat. Although it's untitled, you could call this one, "What Jason's characters do on their day off." He's followed by a story that is completely different in style, "South Train." Andrea Bruno chronicles a man who has lost his place in the world, and the artwork reflects this difference.

"Le Wagram" by Edmond Baudoin is also drawn in a rough style, but with a bit more detail than Bruno. Characters that you are sure you've met in your own local bar tell stories and ogle a particularly mysterious woman who might just lead to tragedy. The tale is simple but effective, though those liking clear and crisp artwork will not approve.

"May 23 1895" takes a new spin on the "I killed Adolph Hitler" idea. Santiago Cohen draws a man who finds a passage that tells him to kill Hitler to save millions. Will he do it? You'll have to read it to find out. Once you're done pondering the philosophical questions of that story, relax a bit with R. Sikoryak's "New York Cartoonist Mugged," a reformatted mini-comic that lampoons all sorts of comic strips, including Peanuts and Dick Tracy. Take that, Fantagraphics!

Craig Thompson's contribution is a highlight of the anthology. "Eve O'twins" looks at creation myth, with very well drawn blending artwork and nifty asides in word balloons. I'm always fascinated by how consistant creation myths are--and how impossible that makes it for any one religion to claim the only truth. Thompson, I think, feels similarly.

But lest you think the anthology is slipping too far into seriousness, it once again balances out with "The First Thanksgiving" by Ted Stearn. Stearn lampoons the story of the pilgrims eating with the Native Americans to good effect, with a postcript note that scholars feel the tale was embellished. Nah!

The closest thing Rosetta 2 has to a feature is the dual sections on Feng Zikai and Liao Binxiong. Their work is spotlighted in the first color section, and then again towards the back of the book, with helpful commentary by Lim Cheng Tju. It's nice to see comics history about something other than the Golden Age of American comics. I'd definitely love to read more in the same vein.

Paul Pope also gets two sections here, one a short-short illustrated poem based on a drive between Ohio and Canada, and another that are excerpts from a manga project that never got off the ground.

"Echo and Bounce" is a strange story where the dialog and the pictures don't match up, leaving the reader to puzzle out the author's planned relationship. I've seen that tried a few times. It's probably the most experimental work in the collection. I thought it was interesting, but not really something I'd want to read all the time. It's really the type of thing this sort of anthology is perfect for.

Jason Lutes checks in with some work that reminds me of Daniel Clowes, as separate parts form a cohesive whole. I really need to read more by him.

LAT ends things with a story about roaming childhood, when time didn't mean what it does after you grow up. He's able to accomlish so much in only a few pages. Who knows where the time goes, indeed.

This is a very strong anthology, and I apologize to the artists I didn't give a specific mention to. I found all of the work to be very solid, even if I didn't call it all out here. If you like independent creators or are looking for a good place to start investigating the world of independent creators, I strongly recommending seeking out this book.