October 24, 2009

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Blood Orange #1

Written by Various Authors, including Kevin Huizenga
Illustrated by Various Artists, including Kevin Huizenga
Fantagraphics

As I've mentioned before, I'm a big fan of anthology series. The key is to understand that you're not going to like everything in the anthology. If you go in with that idea, you'll enjoy it a lot more.

That's definitely the case with Blood Orange, a series that hangs out on the edge of indie comics and dares you to stretch out your taste a bit.

Most of the material consists of one-page strips that do their best to contain the gag all in a set of small panels, such as Birdgame by Lauren R. Weinstein, which shows a set of birds using a viewmaster as a movie theatre or Rick Altergott's The Toilet Bomb, which is exactly what you think it is.

Others are a bit longer, like Grandad by David Collier, featuring an old man jabbering on about his health, with the usual lack of a point.

The best stories use their space to make the story work. Fingertalk by M. Kupperman looks like an instructional comic and parodies the idea of learning the inside story of crime. Fanny & Benny Go to a Baill by Tobias Tak spends just enough time on the story to let the punchline build to an absolutely awful pun (that I loved, of course!). Death and the Maiden really minaturizes the artwork, maing it look as though you're viewing movie film one frame at a time.

I have to admit, however, that a few stories just didn't make any sense to me. A labor of Love, Jazz/Asthma, and even Kevin Huizenga's Fight or Run? were just a bit too bizarre for me. However, that's part of what makes an anthology of this nature work for me as a whole. I got to see some artwork that I'd never pick up if that was all the book contained, but as a part of a flowing set of short narratives, I can appreciate the experimental nature of the work without having to love all of it.

In addition to the wide variety of narrative styles, Blood Orange also provides diversity in the art itself. Some are tightly-drawn, realistic-looking pencils, while others use blocky figures, woodblock-like art, or even characters that are essentially stick figures. While I might not have been able to follow the story, I often could appreciate the artwork of the creator.

Blood Orange is definitely not for everyone. You have to be willing to step outside of your reading comfort zone to see the value in these extremely short stories. If you are willing to take a chance, you might find something you like!