Saturday, March 15, 2014

Meta Desi Comics Presents GROUND ZERO Vol. 2

Meta Desi is one of the few independent comics publishers (what’s that, I don’t know but it sounds cool) that really do justice to pulp writing. The comics are original, daring and eye-catching. Some of the best writers and creators in contemporary Indian comics(I gotta stop using this phrase) have worked on this book, the second in the series, and the results are anything but boring.

I won’t say that all the stories are great, but they are definitely something you don’t normally come across. From a curry western to a cow-monster's rampage, you see a host of genres explored here. The layout is good, printing and colors make you want to pick it up(thanks to a nicely goofy cover art by Abhijeet Kini) and is certainly worth the price of admission. The one thing that is bit of a downer however is the ever-present self-aware tone; there are pop culture in-jokes galore in an apparent attempt to stuff in too much in one book which does distract the reader from the flow of the comics. While it is not a bad thing, I could certainly do with few stories that are not full on the world-view meter.

Coming to the stories, I loved the curry western one – Once upon a time in the North by Sudeep Menon, Ahmed Sikander and Akshay Dhar(Lettering)i. There was a nice balance between narrative and goofiness in this one, the panel flow is good, and overall feel of the comics is very reader-friendly.

Raakshas Rising- Greater Demons by Akshay Dhar and Tarun Padmakumar is a definite improvement over the teaser in the first volume, and the goofy theme of a cubicle worker turned monster can turn into quite a nice series with lot of monsters and dialogbaazi that won’t hurt.

The Last Baqani #2 also improves a lot this time, shifting the focus to cleaner panels (I don’t know how else to describe the economy of size/layout) and smaller, crisper lines.Loved the Grodd like characters here. 

No prizes for guessing I didn’t like Desolation Runner, Super Soldier Squad and Holy Hell much. Desolation Runner starts off with a world weary voice over but soon goes into too much smooth talk for my liking with shades of noir.

Holy Hell is another of those looks good in a poster kind of comics. The jokes run one too many and while I laughed at some panels, I don’t quite enjoy the holy cow turning into an udder monster a la Angry Maushi. 

Super Soldier Squad too didn't work for me. While the comics is easy to read and the panel flow is good, the dialog borders on cheesy and the whole thing looks like a pre-teen video game to me, high on action and visuals but missing a connecting thread or a reason why you would care about the characters.  May be they need a kick-ass villain here to make them bloody serious?!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pulp Quarterly Issue 2

Received my copy of Pulp Quarterly 2nd Issue few days ago and the book/magazine maintains the high standards of print and design quality seen in the debut issue. Lovely cover art by Tarun Padmakumar is attractive yet mysterious in its concept. 

The book is low on comic strips this time but the articles showcase a level on analysis and in-depth study which few can boast of in the Indian scheme of things. The lead feature is on Hyderabad Graphic Novel, with an interview with the creative team (Jai Undurti, Harsho Mohan Chattoraj) and a review. The interview takes us behind the book and tells an interesting story of the book’s conception (through a workshop, how the process was funded and realized). Sumit Ray is insightful in his observations and intersperses the article from the eye of someone who knows what he is talking, and that is a welcome change from articles put together post a handful of internet searches. 

The book itself has strong roots in journalism and looks inspired by the works of likes of journalistic comics of Joe Sacco and Art Spiegelman. As of my take on the book, I borrowed it from Leaping Windows comics library (not sure if it’s commercially available yet) sometime last month and while I loved the art, I had issues with the convoluted story-telling and the odd size that makes it look like a confused child of a graphic novel and a coffee table book. 

I expected vignettes spun around the folklores of the city but after 1-2 stories, the book takes huge tangential leaps into obscure literature. I am not saying it’s a bad thing but personally I lost interest and couldn’t find the flow that usually would keep me hooked to a comics. Couldn’t agree more with the review by Adhiraj Singh when he says that the book has little connection with Hyderabad and might as well be <insert city name> Graphic Novel.

Next comes the wonderful art of Bhanu Pratap in a section called Field notes and observations from a park bench in Delhi- highly individualistic free-strokes of social commentary through art, the last strip goes nicely meta and one can see the artist has a world of inspiration which only makes one look forward more to his comics. 

The Indie Spotlight this time is on Chaitanya Modak of Won-Tolla. Again the story is told beautifully with how the eclectic writer and creator started with newspaper strips (cartoonist) and went on to create more personal work with the creator-owned Won-Tolla label. I loved how the illustrations are juxtaposed with the article that makes the reader visualize the stories and facts given here. 

Sumit Ray reviews the Won-Tolla books(A Parrot’s Tale, Et Tu Brut and I’ve Got A Bike) and gives the stories/comics their due in terms of their abstract genre through Modak’s insights from interviews and tries to connect the dots. Another well researched and written piece.

Adhiraj Singh reviews Oracle of Tripe and Manual of Love (two more Won-Tolla books)and talks about the art aesthetic and the obtuse-ness of the books. I am yet to read these books, but they sound like an interesting addition to the experimental Indian comics scene.

Next comes the comics Fetish by Tarun Padmakumar, which tells the story of a guilt-ridden protagonist and his love-hate relationship with sexual escapades. The comics nicely portrays the inhibitions one practically lives while growing up in typical middle-class Indian suburb. I felt the piece sets up a nice premise but ends abruptly.

Next indie spotlight is on Raveesh Mohan, the writer of Parshu series(Orange Radius). Kailash Iyer interviews Raveesh about the genesis of the character and its development and future. It was nice to find out that the writer is expanding the story with more characters in the upcoming issues, as I found the origin story to be quite hackneyed.

Another nice little comic follows by Bhanu Pratap called A day in the life of a meta side villain, which is quite a self-explanatory title.

The last piece read sleepy ruminations called From Pai to Pao by a certain Tushar Shukla is poorly written and makes me wonder what it’s doing in this otherwise high quality magazine.

Great job again, Team Pulpocracy!