Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Reviews of 2 Short Michael DeForge Books--"Big Kids," and, "First Year Healthy"

A Master of the Comic Art-Form
Michael DeForge has been argued by many (including me) to be one of the most talented comic-makers around today. His odd art-style and surreal stories almost always impress with their mixture of psychedelics, melancholy, and skill. His work will appear in everything from anthologies, to his own comics, to big or small books. I read two short-ish books that feature some really wild stories but at their heart are about things we all relate to--DeForge has a way of making even the simplest concept seem wild, you see.

Big Kids

A story about growing-up and our nostalgia for the past/our childhood is a story that has been told many times, but not quite like this. The whole thing is arguably a metaphor, with our main character (who I don't think is ever named) seeing life in a normal way before suddenly growing into a, "Tree." At this point the entire world becomes different. Everything tastes unique, feels weird, and how he used to view the world he can remember, but is unable to return to. Other people have turned into trees too, but plenty of grown-ups are still stuck as, "Twigs," as the trees see them, and some of the trees yearn for when the world looked and felt the way they remember--including our main character's Mother.

DeForge's artwork is as always impressive, but once our protagonist turns into a , "Tree," things get even more interesting with all the abstract shapes that represent everyday objects but which now are incredible and different. At the heart of all this strange stuff is something we all relate to-- how growing-up is hard. DeForge takes this concept everyone can understand and morphs it into something delightfully off-kilter, resulting in a great little book.
4.5 out of 5 stars.

First Year Healthy
I didn't enjoy, "First Year Healthy," as much as I loved, "Big Kids," but it was still a solid read. Again we have a main character who is never actually named, but through the occasional reveal of her history it is made apparent she had some kind of outburst/mental break and spent a good deal of time recovering in a hospital of sorts before returning to town. We see bits and pieces of this first year she's back in town, "Healthy," as she struggles to acclimate to regular life again despite sensing the people of the town are wary about her, and that only a man she starts dating and living with--"The Turk," seems to care about her much. Things proceed to get weird with organized crime, our protagonist caring for the Turk's child with another woman, and a mythical cat-creature. Throughout all of this our main character narrates her life in a plain and eerily calm manner, be it simple things she discusses or outlandish and unreal events.

"First Year Healthy," is interesting, with it not always being apparent what is real and what could be the fanciful creation of our main character. The whole story is from her point-of-view, so that influences many things. I found myself wanting more from the story however, as right when it seems to really get going and become utterly bizarre it suddenly ends. Give me more weirdness, DeForge! Qualms with the story aside however, the artwork is just as amazing as anything else DeForge creates and makes the story extra-engaging as it gets increasingly out-there.
3.5 out of 5 stars.

An Explosion of Creativity
A moment from, "Big Kids."
Almost anytime you read a comic by Michael DeForge you are guaranteed one thing, that the comic will contain an explosion of creativity. "Big Kids," and, "First Year Healthy," deliver this without a doubt. I preferred one story over the other, but as with all of DeForge's works, I'm glad I read them and got to enmesh myself in his fantastical worlds.

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