Panel Patter Anthology Quick Hits: Komikaze 13, Wild Ocean, Here We Go and Felony Comics 01

Long-time Panel Patter readers know that anthologies are something that site founder Rob McMonigal really enjoys reading. When they're not busy putting one together themselves, the rest of the Panel Patter team are also voracious readers of comic collections. Here's a few anthologies we've digested recently, with a few quick thoughts on them for you to consider. Starting us off is an expert on anthologies, Queer editor Rob Kirby, talking about a Balkan anthology, Komikaze, that sounds really cool!

Komikaze #13
Edited by Ivana Armanini
Published by Komikaze

Komikaze, founded in 2002 and registered as an association in 2008, is a Balkan comics collective/anthology based in Croatia. Like the Latvian Kuš anthology series, which came along later, it is dedicated to furthering the art of comics in the region and creating support and camaraderie with other creators around the globe. Komikaze’s presentation is darker in look and feel than most Kuš books, displaying a more oppositional/political bent. When I asked Main Editor/Art Director Ivana Armanini about Komikaze’s mission statement, she wrote: "…resisting the progressive globalization and the increasing taste of institutionalized artistic production, (the) Komikaze program represents free and altruistic activities of artists from different geo-strategic areas, which connects independent and uncompromising attitude, called the alternative, in relation to the existing dominating artistic practice." That strong activist bent puts me in mind of the classic long-running stateside anthology, World War 3.

Released late last year, issue #13 is a nicely produced 128-page paperback volume, featuring 48 pages in color, with the work of Balkan artists presented alongside others from Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Mexico, and the US. There are a good deal of elliptical, wordless art pieces, as well as intense political comics by editor Armanini and Wostock&Sanja. Some of the pieces I particularly enjoyed include the eerily cryptic "Artichoke" by Argentinean artist Berliac; Portugal's Amanda Baeza’s beautifully drawn, wildly surreal meditation on faith vs. non-faith; Croatia's Ena Jurov's untitled, brief but effective tale of a student experiencing cultural displacement; a lighthearted, strikingly rendered piece starring a Rubenesque woman demonstrating leg squats and other exercises (in order to become "a perfect '10'") by USA/Serbian cartoonist Katie Woznicki; Yves Decamps' signature renderings of human uber-grotesques; and especially an odd, irresistibly surreal outing from Japan's Harukichi, "DJ Cat Gosshie on Tour Now!" I've seen a few other Gosshie the Cat comics here and there but this is the best one yet, a surpassingly original amalgam of oddball humor with poetic visuals. Some stories and drawings are harder to decipher, generally due to language and cultural barriers, which might have been alleviated with the inclusion of an index of biographical information about the artists – something I hope the editors will consider including in future issues. All in all, Komikaze is a fascinating anthology, offering more great reasons to explore the world of European comics. Visit Komikaze's website for ordering info, comics and more background information. (Review by Rob Kirby)

Wild Ocean
Edited by Matt Dembicki
Published by Fulcrum

One of my old comics pals from the DC area, Matt Dembicki, is no stranger to writing nature based comics or editing anthologies. His mini about a great white, Xoc, was turned into a graphic novel by Oni Press (my review here), and he's edited two previous collections, one a collaboration between creators and Native Americans to tell the legends of this continent (Trickster) and the other a hidden history of Washington, DC (District Comics). All three are great and highly recommended.

In Wild Ocean, Matt takes to the seas to work with 12(?) others on stories about endangered species, ranging from monk seals to seahorses. The tales themselves are varied in their approach, ranging from a non-fiction narrative to creating a story that usually involves human and marine life interaction. Highlights for me included Pat Lewis's "The Lady of the Sea," which uses his slightly exaggerated style to good effect, telling the story of the manatee. When his playful linework shows the gashes from motorboat damages, it really resonates, but still leaves room for the cute punchline. Dembicki's "Galapagos" features his usual strong work and ability to make us care about his animal without humanizing it, as he did with Xoc. Another highlight is Steve Loya's "Poseidon's Steed" which features the seahorses, uses colors so well, and shows how much we love the creatures, despite doing things to potentially kill them.

As with Dembicki's other works, both as creator and editor, there's a strong focus on education and learning, and the best of the stories here play to that strength. Some of these creatures will surprise you, like the inclusion of bluefin tuna or thinking about creatures we don't associate with certain areas ("Galapagos" is about hammerhead sharks, which is almost never an animal tagged to those islands.) This serves as a great starting point for looking at some parts of environmentalism that might be getting lost in the overall fight regarding climate change--there may be a lot of fish in the sea, but not if we aren't careful. With part of the proceeds from this one going to PangeaSeed, this is a great pickup for long-time fans of Dembicki as well as those looking for another comic that's educational as well as entertaining for their kids. (Review by Rob McMonigal)

Here We Go
Stories by Jesse Young
Illustrated by Various Artists 

Here We Go is a self-published (via Kickstarter) collection of comic short stories from writer Jesse Young and illustrated by a number of talented artists. As Young described it in his foreword, the collection is his opportunity to build a portfolio of stories and learn and collaborate with some talented artists. This is a fun collection of stories. Several of them take a darker turn, but most of them have a more light-hearted feel to them. 

Young has a good sense of picking the right story for the right artist. My personal favorites in this collection include the title story (illustrated by Anwar Madrigal), which is a touching, imaginative look at the bond between mother and son. "Forbidden Love" is also a strong, dark story with a western setting (and terrific art from Artyom Trakhanov). Young also shows his range in the action-packed "Ex Occultus", illustrated by the talented Joanne Estep. 

They're all fun stories in a short, engaging volume. Young is a talented voice, and this is a heartfelt, entertaining collection of stories. (Review by James Kaplan)

Felony Comics 01
Edited by Harris Smith
Published by Negative Pleasure Publications

An amazingly eccentric collection of crime-based comics takes the mystery/suspense genre and turns it on its ear by dropping it the lap of four creators who provide a full-color romp of neon pink and green, dull reds, bright yellow, and even black/white/red in this anthology that left me looking for more.

We open with "Crime Chime Noir" by which turns the concept on its ear with the neon coloring from Alex "Ad" Degen, Degen adds lots of squiggy lines, too, further going against type, all while a detective gets deeper into the truth--crime is everywhere you go. There's a bit of 1930s animated cartoon style to Degen's look, which adds to the effect. Perhaps the best is "The Disguise Inside" by Pete Toms, who has his investigator checking out a terrorist cell that's very close to home. The disturbing, brightly colored masks used to make his enemies anonymous is do disturbing, especially when you hit the punchline. The transition from ordinary human to an object of hatred to be killed is so fine, and the juxtaposition of the coloring just shows this oh so well.

That's not to say "Slippery Seats" by Lale Westvind or "The Facts" from Benjamin Urkowitz aren't also very strong. Westvind's tale of how a person tries to pass as one of the "blues" recalls various attempts to show racial issues via comics, ending in a monologue about justification of bad deeds. Westvind's style looks rather like a 1940s comic, too, adding to the effect. Urkowitz plays with the idea of what truth is, using absurdist characters that take up white space against the black and red. It's very striking, though a bit hard to read the text in a few spots.

Felony Comics 1 is one of those comics that shows why you should never overlook micro-press work. There's a bunch of hidden gems in there, if you know where to look! (Review by Rob McMonigal)