Mythology Anthology: Katabasis/Anabasis (2010) E

Date read: 4.28.11
Book from: Personal collection. Now available as a PDF.
Reviewer: Emera

Home-brewed comics, yum. The is the second comic anthology published by artist collective WHIRR WHIRR WHIRR. I never got my hands on the first volume, also mythology-themed. This one is specifically themed around katabasis and anabasis – descent and ascent, most often used in a literary/mythological context to refer to a hero’s journey to the underworld, but here interpreted with pleasing variety and in a range of mythological traditions. The bold, Dürer-remixing cover art is by Hunter Heckroth; evocative inset illos rendered in pencil by Kris Mukai draw upon the myth of Isis recovering her slaughtered husband’s body parts. My favorite was a surprisingly sinewy Isis mid-flight, viewed from behind – all of the illustrations in Mukai’s series seem to keep the drama focused somewhere offstage, creating a sense of suspension and quiet intensity.

Laura Kovalcin starts off the comics in the collection with the melancholy, slightly saccharine, but beautifully rendered tale of a lonely banshee:

I greatly admired her fluid linework, and her use of negative space creates wonderful atmosphere – I was reminded faintly of some of Charles Vess’ work on Neil Gaiman’s Stardust. (Maybe it’s the hair, too.)

Erica Perez follows with an interpretation of a Taino death/creation myth from Puerto Rico; her quirkily simplified figures capture the myth’s absurdity and sublimity equally well. The scene below, for example, illustrates the reactions of a pair of parents to the discovery that the body of the son they’ve murdered has been transformed into fish (don’t you hate it when that happens?):

A friend who was reading over my shoulder once gave an appreciative “Ahhh” at the last panel of the comic, which rounds the story off with a sense of peaceful expansiveness.

In “Of Feathers and Webs,” Tara Starnegg‘s insecurity-ridden protagonist, a greasy-complexion’d medieval lad, ends up outwitting a basilisk by way of psychology. Starnegg’s art is full of lively detail, and it’s hard not to be charmed by her hero’s plight.

Next, Max Beck pays an unappreciated and decidedly anticlimactic call to the Devil in “To Hell and Back.” No point in further summarizing something so short and funny, so you should just go read more of his also-short-and-grumpily-funny comics.

Nicole Dochych‘s closing entry, “The Selkie’s Secret,” is the weirdest in the collection and therefore, predictably, my favorite. In summary it’s a mostly straightforward selkie tale – a man hauls up a curvaceous seal-girl in his nets, pulls off her coat –

– and brings it home to placate his shrewish wife, then returns home the next day to find the selkie waiting for him. The strangeness is all in the execution: the presentation of the coat to the shrew cues a two-page spread of surreally overwrought domestic bliss, including a stream of gape-mouthed fishes arcing over the fisherman and his wife, and the reappearance of the cheerfully nude selkie in the empty, darkened house seems as threatening as she does playful. The friend who was reading along interpreted it as the coat actually having transformed the fisherman’s wife. I found I enjoyed both interpretations, as either way, there’s a sort of weird resurgence of magic and sexuality in the face of the fisherman’s determined banality.

All in all, it’s a thoughtful, mostly gently offbeat collection (Beck’s and Dochych’s entries are the ones that skew darker and sharper). Most exciting is the variety in voice, tone, and style – it has me eager to see WWW’s takes on other -ologies. To close, here’s what WWW have to say for themselves:

“We are WHIRR WHIRR WHIRR, three artists-cum-editors who’ve banded together to take on publishing! Our “-ology” series is a venue for us to collaborate with artists we admire about subjects we geek out over! Ergo, Mythology Anthology is fueled by our passion for worldly mythology and eclectic anthologies. Look out for Astrology Anthology, coming in Spring 2012!  Please visit www.ndoch.com/whirr/ to purchase our titles or for more information on our group’s projects and events.”

Go to:
Buy Mythology Anthology as a PDF
WHIRR WHIRR WHIRR official website (includes sample pages)
WHIRR WHIRR WHIRR: works reviewed

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