August 26, 2010

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Mome Volume 3

Written by Various Artists
Illustrated by Various Artists
Fantagraphics

Fantagraphics' ongoing quarterly anthology continues here in this third edition, which sees a few of the contributors changed but most of the same names returning for another edition.

This time around, after the first part of a bookend of Sunday comics satires by Martin Cendreda, the main focus of the anthology is a long work by David B., whom some may remember from the book Nocturnal Conspiracies (which I really need to read). It's a fable of sorts about the Armed Garden, and takes pieces of various creation stories and mixes them all together, with a few modern, cynical additions.

The artwork is typified in the cover posted to the right. David B.'s style is probably best described as wood block print meets Edward Gorey. The characters are just realistic enough to pass for human, but often taken on shapes and impressions that are quite creepy, especially when they are lacking clothing. Often, the characters in this story are as naked and raw as the portrayal of human and divine figures.

It was well worth the space devoted to it, and I'm just sorry this one is out of print now. Maybe David B. will include it in a short story collection for English-speaking audiences some day.

Andres Nilson has the difficult task of following David B., but his juxtaposition of conversation snippets with odd drawings is so completely different from the fable that it works out pretty well. I don't think this is his strongest contribution, however.

Roll of Film by Jonathan Bennett mixes some actual photos with the story of a man obsessed with taking pictures, and I enjoyed this one a lot because I am often that person. It's a wonder our protagonist (and your humble reviewer!) are still in the land of the living.

I just don't care for Overpeck, as I've mentioned, so I'll be honest and tell you I skipped it this time around. The problem with ongoing stories in an anthology like this that only comes out every three months if that if you don't like a storyline, it bogs down the overall work a bit. I'll be happy when this one is finished.

One of the things I like about Mome is that artists can do almost anything, and sometimes do. Andrice Arp illustrates a broadside from the colonial days, using a period-accurate font and illustrations that might match up to an early Bible. It's short and bizarre, and wouldn't have a home anywhere else.

Gabrielle Bell and Jeffrey Brown return, doing their autobiographical comics thing. I like Bell and Brown's expressions of everyday life, which remind me of each other, especially when placed together like this. Brown is the more brutally honest of the two, though Bell doesn't shy away from making herself look ineffectual amongst others. This is true in both their stories here, though in very different ways. Overall, though both are confessing imperfections, I always get the feeling that Bell wants us to stay at arm's length, while Brown wouldn't mind if you were over his shoulder.

This edition of Mome contains what I think is one of my favorite Brown shorts, where he describes becoming a killer. It reminded me a lot of when the same thing happened to my mom.

Mome is not for everyone. There's a lot of art that's primitive, such as Nilson and Brown. Others are pretty vulgar in their depictions, and the language is definitely blue in a lot of places. But if you are fond of anthologies and like to be on the edge of indie comics while still being given the comfort of a larger publisher who can exert quality control, then pick up a copy of Mome. I'd recommend this one, if you can find it. As long as you know going in you're not going to love every story, you'll have a great time. I know, as with the first two volumes, that I certainly did.