From Publishers Weekly
This lavish, full-color art-comics anthology series gets thicker and denser with every volume. Editor Harkham's esthetic encompasses some more-or-less straightforward narrative comics, including his own deadpan heartbreaker "Lubavitch, Ukraine 1876." In general, though, it's much more concerned with freaky, stylistically unhinged pieces and contemporary art inspired by the spatial distortions and expressive linework of cartooning, like the surreal fairy-tale fetishism of Shary Boyle's "The Porcelain Figurine." A few of this issue's contributors are veterans of RAW, the granddaddy of this kind of anthology—there's a pervy half-drawn, half-painted piece by Jerry Moriarty, and some of Gary Panter's frenetic "Daltokyo" comic strips. As usual, Kramers features a handful of artists who obsessive-compulsively fill every square millimeter of the page with scribbly details, notably the team of Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel (whose "Elvis Studio" demands hours of stoned examination), Bald Eagles and the brilliant Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell. Although this collection surrenders a few too many pages to faux-naïf doodlers, Harkham also digs up some fabulous historical surprises: a selection of surreal, Hergé-influenced drawings by the late Dutch artist Marc Smeets and a lusciously colorful excerpt from a 1937 Japanese war-propaganda comic by Suihô Tagawa. (Sept.)
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Kramers Ergot (like the longer-running BLAB!) is a showcase for avant and art comics. It is, however, twice as large and more lavish. Its paper covers are flexible cardboard nearly as pliable as a leather-bound Bible's, and it incorporates several off-white stocks as well as the usual white. The contributors are predominantly twenty- and thirtysomethings, though one sixties underground vet (Gary Panter) and one historic figure (Japanese war-propagandist Suiho Tagawa, 1899-1989) also appear. Normal-seeming strips and sequences of single-page and panoramic images alternate throughout, with color schemes ranging from mono- and bichromatic to full spectral. Dan Zettwoch, Sammy Harkham, Chris C. Cilla, Tom Gauld, and Ron Rege provide the most logical narratives other than Tagawa's. Other ostensible stories proceed like dreams and even near chaotically. While extreme intricacy characterizes many dazzling, if barely decipherable, pieces, the whole shebang concludes with a simple, poetic image by John Porcellino (Perfect Example, 2001; Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man, 2005). One thing is made perfectly clear: there's no lack of graphic skill among the younger comics makers. Ray Olson
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