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Good Read Column for May 11, 1998

Paper & Binding

By Fred Hofheinz

Book One of Three
Glacial Pace Press, $4.00
(of a possible five)


Run, don't walk, to your nearest comic store and see if they have a copy of this comic. If they don't, demand they back order it. If they won't, start shopping for another comic store but in the meantime, visit Fred Hofheinz' website at - I'll bet there's info on how to order there.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: I didn't visit this page before I posted this. There's nothing there but a "coming soon" notice. Also, although it got put on my box sometime in the last two weeks, I just found out from DejaNews that it was on the New Comics Release List for April 15, so it's a bit old.)

Fred Hofheinz takes the expansion of the medium carried out by such folks as Dave McKean and makes it real. Let me explain that statement

McKean's experiments with mixing different visual media, like photography and painting, or painting and drawing, with collage and layering, have helped extend the envelope of how people think of comics, of what comics can look like visually. But to my mind, they have always seemed, well . . . experimental. More for their own sake than in the service of the story, at times. Sliding dangerously close to self-indulgence.

Hofheinz uses the same techniques on a much less ambitious and extravagant scale to produce beautiful and very strange art that is nonetheless clear and simple and quite effective as narrative.

One remarkable thing is how clear and simple and direct the story is. Oh, sure, there are gaps in our knowledge, but for a first issue this is pretty remarkable in its ability to stand alone. Even the ending, though it is obviously not an ending, could be one. The whole thing could be a 24-page short story, and not the first chapter of a longer saga.

Given the penchant these days for in media res beginnings that plunge us into disorienting worlds, sometimes complete with incomprehensible slang and jargon, it's nice to see someone actually begin at the beginning.

Not that there isn't a fascinating backstory that can be - and hopefully will be - explored at leisure. "The apocalypse wasn't that bad afterall," the story begins, and we aren't really given any details about the nature of that apocalypse. But we are told enough to suffice, to get the story moving, to understand that there are freaks now, and that the world has been irrevocably changed, and many of the things we now take for granted are gone forever.

The cause of the apocalypse is promised in the second volume (I do wish he wouldn't call them "books," as in "book 1" and "book 2" - it's even worse than "comic book"), but I'm not sure our narrator is reliable on the subject. He is, after all, a storyteller.

As much as like the story, though, and as much as I'm usually a story-over-art kind of guy, I really can't say enough about the art here. I have seen comics more beautifully rendered by using techniques beyond those traditional to comics - the paintings of Alex Ross come to mind. I have seen many that were more strikingly unusual, though most of those frankly don't appeal to me. I have never seen anything quite so hauntingly beautiful and so completely at odds with what one expects in a comic, both at the same time, and all completely in service to their narrative purpose.

This comic deserves your attention.

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