Blurred Vision 4 by Various

Categories:  Reviews

Blurred Vision Vol. 4
By Various
Blurred Books

Blurred Vision 4 isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great, and with the amount of exciting new comics constantly being put out in various formats, there’s little need for a mediocre anthology—let alone time for it, if you want to try to stay on your indie comics A-game.

2008’s edition of Blurred Vision is the fourth in the yearly series, and actually my least favorite. Featuring many of the same contributors from previous editions—and a number of continuing strips—it culls together miscellaneous black-and-white works from a variety of artists as a sort of short story comics collection. Between each piece, there is a title page listing the name of the next comic and the artist, plus a brief artist’s bio and/or description of the work.

The interstitial pages are a new feature of this year’s edition, and quite an annoying one. Whereas the previous incarnations of the anthology read smoothly, the stark pages in between the contributions are disruptive in what is already a fairly choppy book. They might work better if they simply listed names and titles, like chapter openers, but the biographies and artists’ descriptions of their work belong together at the beginning or the end of the book, where a reader can refer to them as needed. Set in between the comics, they serve as all-too-constant reminders of reality in the midst of an otherwise otherworldly book, and they interrupt the visual flow that comes with reading narrative art.

To be fair, if the art in the anthology were stronger and more engaging, I suspect the format would be less bothersome. The work in Blurred Vision tends toward the surrealistic, with the overall problem being that much of it is weird but not compelling—a combination that alienates the reader. The writing in many of the stories is also fairly weak, so that while some of the art shows exciting potential, it often lacks strong writing to back it up. Length is an issue: some comics are awkwardly short, while others are tediously long. Overall, the contributors seem to be a group that is still working on getting its sea legs, making for an up-and-down, mixed-quality collection.

In the midst of the chaos, some of the contributions and contributors stand out well above the rest. “Pollution” by Woojung Ahn, “Antoinette” by Koren Shadmi, and “Swimmer” by Henrik Rehr are all faithful to the book’s surrealistic bent, but are decidedly tighter and better executed than any of the others. “Pollution,” the book’s opener, follows a young girl’s dream gracefully, without any words and with a light, ethereal aesthetic; “Antoinette” is the strange story of a girl with a disembodied head, and Shadmi’s strong line and confident style, as well as his use of the familiar paradigm of the drunken college rendezvous, keep the reader involved; and “Swimmer” is an open-ended vignette about a man who jumps into the water in New York City and swims away, with Rehr’s thick, bold style and full-page panels moving the comic forward successfully. Matt Madden’s work also drew me in—“The Others,” a strip comprised of coffee shop sketches and light-hearted musings that veers away from the book’s fantastical nature.

I came away from Blurred Vision 4 feeling largely ambivalent. I welcome a forum for up-and-coming comics artists but think perhaps the anthology’s editors need to be a bit more discerning in their selection of work. A shorter book of higher quality is always better than a longer one of mixed quality, and this collection proves that entirely.

–Jillian Steinhauer

13 Comments to “Blurred Vision 4 by Various”

  1. Blurred Books | July 10th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Just a note to respond to a point in Jillian’s review. Blurred Vision is not meant as a “forum for up-and-coming comics artists.” Rather, Blurred Vision was conceived as a place to mix work by artists from both the “fine art” and “alt comics” worlds – fine artists engaging with comics and comics artists engaging with fine art. Of the twenty-three artists in Blurred Vision 4, nine are primarily fine artists or writers, most of them with long track records in their fields.

    Of the Blurred Vision 4 artists primarily focused on comics, it might be fair to characterize a few of them as “up and comers”, but the vast majority have been working for many years and are quite well known in experimental comics circles.

    Blurred Vision

  2. AlexB | July 11th, 2008 at 2:28 am

    Cross: To go over one way, and then again, as if from nowhere, gone over…

    Hatch: Birth; to leap, screaming from your shell as a new world is laid out before you

    Yes, this is what you are
    and we sit here
    watching and whispering
    as the act is framed for us again
    and again.

    Never has an actress been more prepared for the stage
    and the stage more prepared for her.

    we thank you.

    And to the “editors of Blurred Vision”
    Dude…. If it sucks, it sucks.

  3. AlexB | July 11th, 2008 at 2:29 am

    New Narrative art????????!?!?!?!?!?!?!

  4. Kevin Mutch | July 11th, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Hey “AlexB”-

    That was an awesome poem, dude.

    BTW, which pieces in Blurred Vision did you think sucked the most?

    I mean, you DID read it right?

  5. frank santoro | July 11th, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    No. It is terrible. They’ve all been terrible. Beyond terrible.

  6. Kevin Mutch | July 11th, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    Frank, are you answering for AlexB, or just warning him off?

  7. Kevin Mutch | July 11th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Frank… I have to ask… aren’t you sort of known for being down on photo-based comics and digital images? Which Blurred Vision is of course full of.

  8. AlexB | July 12th, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Answer: Drunk

  9. Psychic Advice | July 13th, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Too bad i didnt come across this blog before. Great stuff you got here. Thanks.

  10. Andrei | July 13th, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    What’s funny about Frank’s comment is that, pretty much verbatim, that was my response to every single issue of “Cold Heat.”

  11. K. Thor Jensen | July 23rd, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I like both!

  12. Miss Pam | August 16th, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Jillian Steinhauser simply doesn’t get it.

  13. Jillian Steinhauer | August 16th, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    That may be true, but it’s Steinhauer. No ‘s.’ Thanks.