Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ground Zero Vol. 1 by Meta Desi - A Comics Anthology

I finally got a chance to catch up on this book at the Leaping Windows comics library. Loved the cover art, and the general format and layout of the book. Almost all the stories (except one) are written by Akshay Dhar and one must admire this guy’s talent at presenting so many diverse genres within one book.

Things big and small- Art by Ankur Amre & Sammi Lenker
Pretty much the ruminations read existential commentary of a party goer in Delhi, the protagonist sounds like Matthew McConnaghey from Dazed and Confused, who wants in on the fun yet doesn’t shy away from being philosophical about it.

The Last Baqani - Art : Sahil Rao
This workman-like account of a lost futuristic race/tribe is reminiscent of many sci-fi cities seen in the likes of Fifth Element, Blade Runner, or even Dredd, from recent times. I quite liked the in-depth-ness of the terminologies, and felt the writer knows these well, instead of just quoting them here, and would like to read more of similar kind of stories. And any story that starts with a bar conversation, I am in!

The Mirror Cracked - Art by Vivek Goel
My favorite story of the lot, because of the perfect balance between writing and art, everything is in place here, right from the Samurai aesthetic to the monologue of a guilt-ridden Samurai warrior who looks back at better times, and how he turns from a protector to a slayer.

A Day in the Life – Art by Abhijeet Kini
This cute little story of a 9 yr old and his heart-warming adventure with Yamdoot showcases the brilliance of Abhijeet Kini in telling a story fluidly. I am not too fond of his style though and think it suits pop art more than comic books, but I am waiting to be proved wrong.

Equality – Story and art by Anik Kumar Maitra
Though I appreciate the gory concept and the use of silhouettes I didn’t quite like this one too much.

Raakshas Rising – Art by Tarun Padmakumar
With a title like that, one would expect more of rising to happen, except all you get here is 2-3 eastmancolor pages and panel and a Batman-like figure leaping against the night sky.

Super Soldier Squad – Art by Anant Sagar

There is whole lot of spy lingo here(combat, target infiltration) and some cool Manga-like art however the dialogue seems self-important and the story/backstory or the motive seems missing. May be 1-2 page preface would help setting the context.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

InkLab Zine Issue# 1 Review

This collection of comic shorts (released last week at Delhi Comic Con by DCKS-Dehli Comics Kala Samagam, a collective on Facebook, and the real world) is a brave new effort in the Indian comic scene, and fully conceptualized and brought to fruition in a typical underground/guerrilla style. The team behind it has an interesting bunch of artists, writers and illustrators. I liked that the stories here don’t try to fall within any particular norm or genre, and are by their own independent instinct, free flowing narratives. It took me some time to absorb the diverse styles and formats at play here, but could appreciate the various team-up of writing and art here, which showcase both the traditional and newer genres in the art of comics.

Nasha! By Adhiraj Singh & Rajkawal Suri
A light start to the anthology with a funny piece about a guy’s good and bad trips. As he tries on some good and not so good ‘substances’ his brain goes through multiple hallucinations, as it would. The dialogs are in Hindi so the mannerisms may be lost on non-Hindi speakers but the expressive art pretty much makes up for it. The piece ends with a breaking the fourth wall panel, which just shows how much fun these creators are having with this Zine.

Chup by Shikhant Sablania
An open to interpretation dark piece about a man reading off what looks to be random strips of text which could either be from a pulp novel or a magazine. He does something to stop his introspection which I will not spoil as it deserves to be read first hand. The minimalism and the panels, especially the last one will remind you of world cinema.

Eye On You by Bhanu Pratap
A man gets woken up from his semi-sleep by what looks to be a sexual act, which soon turns into soul-churning surreal sequence. I am not sure why the style/art changes after first few pages but I interpreted it as a change of realm (dreams to reality). Themes of existential angst, guilt and burden of one’s actions are strongly pronounced here, with free flowing art. This is pure indie stuff, comes straight out of the creator’s heart, and not meant to please any funding agency/financier.

Kallol by Biboswan Bose
I read this piece, written entirely in a ‘mixed dialect of Bengali’, without the translation(there is a script provided alongwith), and couldn't understand it, except that there is an old women with tears in her eyes, and a strong recurring instance from her memory takes form of a crumpled note. Try it.

Infame by Sumit Ray & Shikhant Sablania
A revenge drama told in classic B&W silhouettes. A cop apprehends a film actor murdering his girlfriend. The cop gets falsely accused in the case until the wheels of fate take a reverse turn…The story and the panels here could be a bit tighter, the mystery which the initial panels evoke gets repetitive and loses its intensity. The revenge part is nicely done towards the climax, but could have used fewer lines.

Untitled by Adhiraj Singh & Bhanu Pratap
A slice of life piece, this one chronicles a day in the life of an everyman office-goer, where banter of all sorts surrounds him right from the moment he wakes up till he closes his day. I liked the well worked panels here, and the humor in the writing complements the overall mood.

Just Rewards by Aakshat Sinha
A philosophical piece that juxtaposes lines of poetry with images of lottery tickets thrown on what looks like a hospital floor, a sniffing rat, pages of newspaper and a sleeping person with a handicap.  May be it’s the theme or the incoherent font (which doesn’t gel very well with the art) I couldn’t quite get involved with this piece.

Fall by Bhanu Pratap

A one-page piece about bodies falling and flying….

Cover by Shikhant Sablania, Pin up by Veraat Singh

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Do NOT Open This Comic! An Indian Horror Anthology

A Horror anthology in comic books is not a normal occurrence, so it becomes even rarer if it happens in India. Being a fan of horror as a genre, I kicked myself for not hearing about it earlier and immediately got my copy. The cover artwork by Devaki Neogi is great, the B&W tones and the Creep New Roman font lend a nice eeriness to the mood. Another achievement here is smart editing which lends a coherent look to all the stories, as if they were written specifically for this anthology and were not standalone pieces.  On to the stories now…

The Call by Ashwin Kalmane & Pia Alize Hazarika
A moody, wordless story of hieroglyphics travelling from the habitable land to ...(won't spoil it). Some great water-color-y artwork here, and the B&W just so complements the juxtaposition of the mundane with the supernatural. Great opening piece.

Rickshaw Raj by Sudeep Menon & Ghanshyam Bochgeri
A werewolf story told with a touch of realism and humor, I love how Sudeep Menon always makes the stories and dialogs closer to home, yet makes them highly engaging and entertaining.

Hazard Pay by Ashwin Kalmane & Charbak Dipta
This one requires a couple of readings, to understand the layers of horror and ghastliness of one human being against the other. Elements of body horror and abject neglect of human rights collide in this moving story of a firework factory employing kids.

Behind Closed Doors by Ram V & Nitin Veturkar
A story built on the ‘don’t open the door’ premise, that demands you to do the thinking and appreciate the mood brought in here through sometimes expressive sometimes hazy panels, with a nice Nietzsche reference thrown in too.

Vermin by Sudeep Menon & Vinay Brahmania
A nice breather and action-oriented short, this one portrays the workmanlike horror with a rat as a central cause of disturbance and destruction in the life of a comic-book artist(!) who is already haunted by non-paying clients. Personally, give me the rat anyday!

Man Walks into a Bar by Ashwin Kalmane & Arun Kumar Kaushik
Sell your soul to the devil stuff here mixed with the angst of a daily job, all happening in a bar standing on the gates of hell and redemption. I didn't quite like this story but loved the dialog, which was more funny than frightening, but then I have always loved RGV’s horror-comedy films. 

The Masterpiece by Sudeep Menon & Shishir C Naik
Another transformative horror wordless piece, this one nicely concludes the anthology with expressive artwork and a twist towards the end of the classic human subject theme.

The book also has a nice insight into the making of all the stories at the end, which gives a unique touch and a greater sense of satisfaction to the reader. I would love to see the alternative/variant covers designed for the book, the sketches of which are given towards the end. Get this horror anthology!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Comix India Vol 6 : Book Review

Got my copy of Comix India recently, and loved the user-friendly format. The cover was appealing, and the size of the book immediately appeals to you. The book has a quirky short in the beginning, called The Tree of Life, which philosophizes on life without being boring, and there is a fun Austin Powers reference to boot.

Worth It by Tarun Padmakumar
A nicely drawn piece about a daydreaming romantic, waiting on a bus stand. His imagination flashes his whole life with a random girl until she asks him the time again..

The Contract by Shirish Deshpande
I liked this surrealistic piece of a college guy and his interactions with a Death Note like demon who promises to solve all his worries if he gives him few drops of his blood on a contract. The lines between dreams and realities and nightmares blur and characters names Steve, Martin(is this a coincidence?!) and Maya crowd the panels with sometimes grim sometimes wild sequences. The writing gets a little inconsistent and confusing at times, but it is still quite a good effort.

Birth is the Cause of Death by Bharath Murthy
An excerpt from (what I am guessing) Murthy’s upcoming graphic novel project, unique and distinct in its autobiographical style of narration and attention to detail. There is a journalistic vibe but also wit in places, that lend the piece a lighter, friendly tone.

Yaksh by Shounak Datta
This one was a crime story, bordering on the supernatural theme of Yaksha or demons who guard divine treasures. The associated story of a group of robbers killing a rich old man for a huge sum of money, takes a darker turn when the Yaksha unleashes his wrath…

Junk N Memories & Mall Bots by Kailash Iyer
I loved the first story, for the nostalgia it evokes. Has a very handcrafted look, and drawn in detail with coherent frames and pleasing artwork, this is a 4 page comic about finding old stuff in a room. Anyone growing up in the nineties can relate to. These are experiences one considers unique only to be surprised much later on in life. Yes, I played with disfigured G.I.Joe action figures too!

The second story, Mall-Bots, is what the name suggests, is a take on bots cribbing about their lives, the existential crisis reflecting any office cafeteria talk. I found the font a little too small to read clearly, but the writing is precise and brings out the Kafkaesque-drone-human talk quite nicely, with a brutal finale.

Everyday Love by Tina Mary John
A light, romantic ‘chick flick’ story drawn in the style of Shojo Manga, about flirtations, dating and a dance contest. I had to struggle through this as I am anti-chickflick and the story didn’t hold my interest either.

 Fragments of the Past by Sudeep Menon

Sudeep Menon must have a disturbed mind! The way he brings darkness in his stories feels so real. I loved that this story does the masterful tightrope between a personal narrative yet a cool take on a ghetto-city-by-night. The story is told from the p.o.v. of a serial killer, the nameless shadow parading the city silhouettes, and also chronicles the rise of crime just as a character of the city, like the foul air and vagabond pigeons.