February 6, 2010

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Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Book One

Written by Nicolas Robel and Kevin Huizenga
Illustrated by Nicolas Robel and Kevin Huizenga
Drawn & Quarterly

Starting in 2003, Drawn & Quarterly began an anthology series designed to show off the talents of a few up and coming artists. Rather than a large grouping of short stories, they tend to focus on a few artists at a time.

This first anthology spotlights Panel Patter favorite Kevin Huizenga and Nicolas Robel, with whom I am unfamiliar.

Huizenga's contribution is yet another Glenn Ganges story, as the couple tries to get pregnant and Glenn goes to some extreme lengths to make things work, as the ever fanciful series delves into mythology and the Ganges family might end up with more than the bargained for.

This is one of my favorite stories by Huizenga because it shows all of the best parts of the Glenn Ganges storyline, which I've read in about four different places now, by my count. Glenn ruminates on an ordinary news story and the concept of missing person alerts. This morphs over time into the mythological plot, where Glenn must go all over suburbia to fulfill his quest. The story ends with the history of starlings in America, which would be a rather odd thing to do, except that Huizenga has found a way to make it work within the mythic story he just finished up.

Ganges is drawn in Huizenga's signature style of characters with thin necks and oval heads and very tight, small panels. He has several long shots filled with detail that somehow still manages to work despite the cramped space. (I think my favorite might be the floating mall signs.) Everything is in his signature gray-green tone, giving it all a laid back, reflective aura. The overall effect is simple, but it works for the stories Huizenga wishes to tell.

Nicolas Robel, on the other hand, colors his work in bright pink with shades of olive green splattered here and there. It's quite jarring next to the coloring of Huizenga and wakes up your eyes. Filled with a lot of extra line work, Robel's characters almost look like they are stamped into the page. It's a neat contrast of styles seen back to back like this.

I didn't like Robel's story as much as Huizenga's. I think the idea is that a couple is looking at an apartment, and the woman starts to remember a slice of life from her past, but it's so vague that I can't tell. The linking connections just don't exist, in an attempt to give the story a mystical feel. I think Robel went a bit too far trying to be subtle. Plus the main character's male partner berates her for having feelings of anxiety, which bothers me because he's not properly chastised for doing so. I did like how imaginative the girl is in the story, talking about her dreams and noting the details of the prior owners of the apartment. However, I don't think I'd seek out more of Robel's work, at least based on what I've seen so far.

Overall, this edition of the Drawn & Quarterly Showcase is worth it for the Huizenga entry, especially if you can find it used. Fans of his work definitely need to see this story, with the Robel work a bonus if you like it. Just make sure you don't have to complete a mystic quest to track it down. You might find yourself in a Hitchockian predicament!