September 23, 2011

Indestructible Universe Quarterly 6 and 7

 Written by Morgan Pielli
Illustrated by Morgan Pielli
Self-Published

Come wander the Indestructible Universe, where a variety of wonders await you.  Under the guidance of Pielli's imagination, you might encounter a gathering of were-creatures with their own honor code, Kirby-like celestial beings, killer trees, deadly houses, and even the stray morality play.

In this anthology series of rotating stories, some of which relate, some of which are stand-alone, Pielli opens the reader up to what Ray Bradbury called on his television show "the bounds of his imagination."  I think it's an apt comparison.  You could always use any other anthology show or series of your choice, but I think that the comparison to Bradbury is probably the best fit here.  Pielli's storytelling has the same wistfulness about it, as he explores the imagination, sometimes going into very dark corners.

I have to admit it was a bit strange reading an anthology comic from a single author that sometimes carries things over from one book to the next.  It's a great idea, but I'm not sure I've seen it in a mini-comic before that's self-published.  I am a big fan of the anthology format, so I read a fair amount of them.  Normally, when I encounter something structured like Indestructible Universe, it's a collection of stories the author did elsewhere, such as Jeffrey Brown's Little Nothings.

That's not the case here, which I think gives the whole proceedings some cohesion that is normally lacking from single-author short story collections.  Despite the disparate nature of the stories themselves, they flow better because they're surrounded by the comics they were meant to live with, not ripped from the pages and placed in a greatest hits collection.

Of the stories included here, I think my favorite might be the opener to issue 7, where a craven apprentice gets greedy and gets his just desserts.  It's got the perfect setup for a story with a twist ending, and Pielli's visuals set up of the action quite nicely.  I also enjoyed the strange romanticism of the story of lovers linked by numbers, which is both creepy and heartbreaking, all at the same time.  The highlight of issue 6 is definitely the fable of how the wolf stole the moon, as Pielli creates a legend set in his world of were-people. It works as both a story, a world-building device, and as an allusion to the many, many myths and legends told by humanity over the centuries.  If he ever came across it, Bradbury would surely love the tale with its layers and positive message.

I haven't said much about the art yet, but it's definitely a step above the standard mini-comic.  Pielli went to art school, and it shows.  He's able to vary his style from story to story while still being distinctly his.  The characters are somewhat scratchy in appearance, reminding me positively of Panel Patter favorite Rafer Roberts.  Pielli could easily take a turn on art chores on Plastic Farm without it looking out of place.  His linework is deceptively simple, providing strong setting and individual characters without it looking labored or overly technical.  I also like how Pielli makes effective use of shadows and heavy black lines to contrast scenes.  That's a technique I've really come to appreciate lately.

I owe thanks to Sara Lindo for introducing me to Morgan Pielli's work, and I'm glad she did.  Now I'm passing Indestructible Universe to you.  Fans of science fiction, light horror, and stories that have the feel of the old masters of short speculative fiction definitely need to get this one now.  It's going to be right up your alley, and you'll want to return to this universe again and again.

You can find Pielli at comics shows on the east coast (such as MICE in Boston this weekend!) or pick up his comics at his website.  Go get some!

Morgan was kind enough to give me a copy of these books for review.  Thanks, man!  If you're interested in having your comic reviewed by Panel Patter, please e-mail me at trebro@gmail.com.