World War 3 Illustrated #39
Edited by Peter Kuper and Kevin Pyle
The recent release party for the latest issue of World War 3 Illustrated featured a live improvisational jazz band playing in time with projections of the book’s strips. The move marked a change from previous celebrations, which found the artists reading aloud from their pieces, a shift that reflected the new issue’s “wordless worlds” theme. When the time did come to speak, the publication’s long time editor Peter Kuper explained that the wordless issue #39 (co-edited with Blindspot’s Kevin Pyle) was meant as something of a break coming off the last eight years—and before heading off into the next eight.
It’s a change for the long-running progressive comics magazine, which has never been especially soft-spoken when it comes to issues of politics—or, really, anything else for that matter. But while there are always plenty of arguments to be had, eight years of yelling has the tendency to leave one hoarse. Of course the lack of words contained herein doesn’t necessarily single a change in focus—plenty of the works maintain standard themes of environmentalism, peace, anti-corporate greed, and just good old-fashioned humanism.
Kuper’s own story forms the centerpiece of the book. Fittingly, the piece is something of a quiet mediation, a final walk through the streets of Oaxaca Mexico before moving his family back to New York City. Along the way the artist greets the locals, enjoys the sights, and gets harassed by a few of Oaxaca’s stray dogs. Black and white in the beginning, the piece utilizes the book’s only colored spread, one page of which is shared by some of the more stunning images of revolutionary wall art that the artist photographed in Mexico.
Another example of the (at least on its surface) a-political comes in the form of Mac McGill’s stunning excerpt from “Song for Katrina,” a piece of abstract storm-like swirls that coalesce into writhing weather-torn residents and howling jazz musicians. It’s a visually dense and compelling piece that only makes itself known through.
At the other end of the visual spectrum is Onur Turkely’s “Steps of Another Man’s House.” Still, while visually simple, the piece is no less thematically complex. At 16 pages, the story is one of the issue’s longest. In it the artist deals with themes like family and growing up with a sense of childlike wonder reflected in his cartoony linework, a sweet juxtaposition of the playful and serious that is at the center of so much of World War 3’s better works.
There’s a lot in these 120 pages—a wide range of voices by a divergent cast of contributors with work that is sometimes silly, sometimes serious, and always thoughtful. All in all, not bad for a $5 fee.