Mome: Vol. 16 Edited by Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth

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Mome: Vol. 16
Edited by Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth
Fantagraphics

mome16coverThe Eric Reynolds, Gary Groth-edited anthology, Mome, has long occupied a very specific place in the Fantagraphics universe. The series is largely aimed at skirting the outer-reaches of the work that falls under the publisher’s admittedly fairly broad banner. For that reason, the books often focus on younger artists and more experimental work from better established names, who might have difficulty maintaining such conceits in the context of longer form projects.

Because of this, the anthology is often fairly hit or miss, despite the pedigree of its editors. Sometimes, however, an issue manages to hit perfectly, striking the ideal balance between new blood and Fantagraphics mainstays. It’s a standard that Volume 16 meets and exceeds, making for the best addition to the quarterly series in recent memory.

From the established side of things, Groth and Reynolds round up “three of our favorite alternative comic artists of the last 15 years.” Sof’ Boy creator and post-rocker extraordinaire, Archer Prewitt, kicks off the trio with the book’s first strip, a self-titled Funny Bunny strip executed in woodblock still, which takes a largely wordless detour into the world of Looney Tunes-style physics. It’s a delightful little self-contained intro for those unfamiliar with Prewitt’s oft-overlooked body of work.

Ted Stern is up next with a serialized Fuzz & Pluck piece, which swiftly devolves into a hilarious bit of stuffed animal/poultry based brutally, whilst carrying on the sleep theme begun by Prewitt, ultimately serving as a bit of a common thread through a number of the book’s pieces.

Renee French, the third member of the issue 16 trinity, created the volume’s dreamlike front and rear covers. The front offers little insight into the blurry figure standing on the shores of some distant long ago beach. The rear, meanwhile is sharper, but infinitely more perplexing, an embryonic snake-like creature coiled around itself, with a tiny cityscape of innards cross-sectioned for the world to see. Inside the book, French offers up “Almost Sound,” a logical extension of the college like clues she’s been offering up via her Blogger account. The piece is far from an ideal intro to French’s work, but for those who have followed the artist closely, the makeshift scrapbook seems to shed a little more light on her enigmatic upcoming book.

Fantagraphics newcomer Lilli Carre offers up her own dreamlike narrative, drenched in the sense of restlessness that’s come to define much of her recent work. This time out, it’s sunburns and fever dreams as a young couple lie together on a largely secluded beach. The piece fancifully ties together seemingly dissonant images from one panel to the next, as the narrator progresses down the shore, away from his sleep partner, a nice compliment to Carre’s recent Little Otsu book, Nine Ways to Disappear.

Dash Shaw, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to showcase a dramatic aesthetic departure from Bottomless Belly Button and Body World. “Blind Date” is a painted interpretation of the reality show of the same name. The art takes center stage in the page, transforming the banality of the show’s dialog into something quietly poetic, embracing a silence in a number of interstitial panels that was most likely left out of the source material.

Laura Park’s piece, “Untitled,” also opts for a bit of poetry over narrative, with a unique embrace of Park’s oft-explored self-loathing, as external forces vocalize manifestations of her own internal dialog, maintaining a consistent monologue throughout. As always, Park’s gorgeous inks shine, highlighted by the blue hue of watercolors.

A number of other pieces are well worth exploring. The work of Ben Jones and Frank Santoro bears the unmistakable mark of Panter-inspired Picturebox surreality, while T. Edward Bak caps off the with an E.C. Segar-inspired travelogue.

Taken together, it’s a vital and vibrant sign of life for both the series and the indie comics community at large.

–Brian Heater

3 Comments to “Mome: Vol. 16 Edited by Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth”

  1. Robert Boyd | October 14th, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Doing an anthology well is really hard, and keeping momentum going is harder. Mome is probably Fantagraphics’ best try. They have tried many times before. Graphic Story Monthly his its moments, but it was kind of a mishmash. Pictopia (which I edited) had good aspects (it was where Fantagraphics first published Chris Ware and Dave Cooper, for example–not to mention Takashi Nemoto). In both of these, you can see the “Kim Thomson” and “Gary Groth” aesthetics duking it out. Kim always wanted to push Euro-comics, particularly what I’d call the “Futuropolis/A Suivre” generation. But they mixed poorly with what Gary liked. Kim finally threw up his hands at trying to get Americans to love Tardi or Munoz and Sampayo (etc.), and was the prime mover of Zero Zero, which had an aesthetic that came more from the “Raw/Bad News/Weirdo” side of things. And it lasted a good long time, and published tons of excellent stuff. (Obviously Kim has renewed his quixotic quest to get Americans to love Tardi–and more power to him for it!)

    As for Mome, it feels more like Eric Reynolds is the guiding hand, but I assume this is what Gary really likes as well. It’s funny, I’ve known Gary for a long time and worked for him for several years. But I still don’t quite understand his tastes (whereas I think I have a very good handle on Kim Thompson’s tastes). What Gary likes and what I like have, as far as I can tell, always overlapped a lot, but if I were to be shown a comic by a creator with whom I wasn’t familiar, I wouldn’t be able to tell you with any confidence whether or not Gary would like it–whereas I think I could make a good guess whether Kim would.

    OK, this is kind of inside baseball. The point I wanted to make was that Fantagraphics has been trying literally for decades to do anthologies successfully, and it seems that they have hit the mark closest with Mome.

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