Haunting tales from Zak Sally in Recidivist and slice-of-life stories from Vanessa Davis in Spaniel Rage demonstrate two very different kinds of independent comic storytelling aesthetics in this week’s reviews.
Esoteric in its execution, yet thoroughly comprehensible, Zak Sally’s tiny hardcover is an excellent piece of creepy. For all its bizarre, often unexplained situations, there remain personalities recognizable from our daily lives.
There’s a beautiful streak of heartlessness running through the characters in these stories, who leave the people depending on them adrift. Sally is good at putting fear and revulsion into his readers, and then swapping it for awfully human sadness. Amid these stories of prisoners, patients and poetry, the spookiest tale is “The Great Healing,” a haunting plea for return that should move anyone who’s ever cared for another human being.
Largely a daily diary of one or two panels per entry, Spaniel Rage is actually at its strongest in the rear section, when it takes on short narratives. The diary entries provide, as they should, a “slice of life,” often the day’s glib moment, though often a dose of vulnerability or touching moment. But the stories make a much better presentation of Vanessa Davis’ ability to isolate an emotional effect and make it resonate, with room to spin out an idea and come back to it.
Still, there are some very powerful, quick hits in the journal, such as “When I feel crappy, it compounds.” Nor is this a sleight to the book’s humor, which often provokes an outright laugh, such as the May 31st, 2003 entry about Cat Power.
Brendan McGinley is a long-time writer for ComicBase. His comic favorites include anything featuring Grim Jack, Punisher, Guy Gardner, Green Lantern, or written buy Evan Dorkin, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Deadpool… and the list goes on. But he insists he is of discriminating tastes.