August 25, 2012

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SPX Spotlight 2012: Morgan Pielli and Indestructible Universe Quarterly 8 and 9

Welcome to another entry in my SPX Spotlight 2012!  You can find all of my SPX Spotlight posts, including those from past years, by clicking here.

Pulling off a one-man anthology is tricky, but when you are able to do it successfully, the results are amazing.  Having complete creative control of the contents means you can work within themes and artistic styles, providing variety or consistency, depending on your mood.

Morgan Pielli, like Noah Van Sciver, has a very strong handle on how to work within this style, and while the two do completely different things with the concept they have one thing in common--excellent comics.

Pielli's anthology is called Indestructible Universe Quarterly, and it collects the comics he initially puts on the web.  Each mini-comic features a series of stories that vary in length, telling tales in a variety of genres, sometimes mixing them together.  You can't find Pielli himself in the stories, but you can gain insight into his mind by reading enough of the issues together.  His work will appeal to those who are fans of wonder, mystery, and soft science fiction, with a pinch of horror here and there, almost always of the psychological kind.  When I reviewed some of Morgan's comics last year, I likened him to Ray Bradbury.  Anyone who is a fan of the prolific writer would do well to look into Pielli's work, as there are definitely strong similarities.

Morgan's artwork shows a strong handle on creative use of black and white space.  His comics often use heavy patches of black or while to heighten the impact of a scene, such as the subway car in panel four above, which comes from issue 9 of the series.  He also is good at finding ways to make background images interesting.  Unlike a lot of mini-comics creators, Pielli does not leave the background as an afterthought.  In almost every comic, he uses the background to set the mood, often creating a background that is slightly unnerving.  Part of what makes Morgan's comics better than other minis I've come across is this attention to detail.

You can tell that Pielli is a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies based on his figure work, which means that there is an emphasis on what the character is feeling more than how they look.  I happen to like that approach, because it gives depth to the characters without needing to resort to dialogue crowding out the illustrations, but it might not appeal to everyone.  While his character designs are deceptively simple, they tell a lot by what they do.

For SPX, Morgan will have Indestructible Universe 8 and 9 available, along with back issues of his earlier comics.  Issue 8 has two stories, The Worry Tree and A Forged Man.  The former uses an ongoing visual narrative trick that relates to the story title which I thought was particularly clever and really makes the visuals interesting.  A man encounters a strange tree that ends up changing his life forever.  Meanwhile, the forged man finds an old foe who has a lot to say.  Their battle of words leads to a conclusion that I definitely did not see coming and would have made a perfect Twilight Zone episode.

Pielli changes the pace in issue nine, opening with an homage to John Carpenter.  Framing it like a song, Pielli provides images to words from a Carpenter movie.  I had no frame of reference, but the illustrations were strong and definitely drew well from the source material.  City of Crowns finds us in court, with a man using an old story with echoes of modern issues to defend himself.  Morgan's art here is smaller, almost claustrophobic at times, and he uses a looser style than usual.  After a one-page thought piece, IUQ9 ends with Quantum, another Twilight-zone like piece.  Looking quite a bit like Paul Grist's work, Pielli gives us a man who preys upon the weak in a very unique way, with an ending that's bound to make you think.

Unfortunately, Morgan does not have an online store, so you'll just have to go to SPX to see him and get his comics.  If you like strange stories with a twist or thought pieces that stir the imagination, Morgan Pielli is not to be missed at SPX!