Comic Diorama: Collected Comics by Grant Reynolds

In a comic shop the other day, I kept picking this up and putting it down. I have wanted to check out more of Grant Reynolds’ work since reading his standout pieces in the You Ain’t No Dancer anthologies. I really like the Jeremy Tinder-painted cover of this mini* and while all signs were pointing to YES, I balked a bit at the five dollar price tag. Luckily my companion gave me a bit of a bitch slap, commenting on how long it takes to make even a short comic, and how I just needed to get over my thin wallet and support the artist (and the store, and the publisher, etc.). Truly, friends, how many of us have them?

The book opens with “Legends of Chance Oxblood: A Travel Journal,” a series of illustrated sections from a the fictional lost journal of an unfortunate “adventurer-explorer.” Each page has three parts: the entry, the pictures and a small, mystery-laden item below. Between the introduction and suggestive glimpses into the life and times of Oxblood, we know that he did not come to a happy end, but perhaps a fitting one. I like the mystery imparted by his heavy use of black in this story and the pane-within-pane construction of the panels.

The second story charts the last year in the life of a fallen giant of the gas variety. Pluto, after being fired from the solar system, lives his life in a Chicago-like city, seemingly content with his earthbound life until his ancientness catches up with him. This mostly-wordless story is packed with expository details that don’t weigh the lightening quick story (one panel per month) down but only enrich it.

The “Black Forest Hymn” was the most visually arresting tale of the bunch and almost pulls off the aint-life-brutal allegory it strives for. Instead of you and me wandering, breeding and dying, we get silent humanoid creatures with a single arm instead of heads roaming in the state of nature. I liked the dangerous woodiness of the setting and the expressiveness Reynolds was able to pull from the figures, but the last two pages lacked the urgency felt in the rest of the story.

“You Are My Heart” is a nightmarish take on finding oneself cast as the sacrificial lamb, or in this story’s case “the chosen one.” I like how Reynolds uses two styles to evoke the need of the townspeople with the need of the monster. The woman to be given to the monster is torn from a dream that looks tellingly like that of her fate, but where she is a mermaid instead of wet bait—I thought using the same style to depict both was an elegant way to show the powerlessness of the unnamed woman in the face of other people’s desires.

The final story, “Where the River Meets the Sea,” returns to the format of “Legends of Chance Oxblood,” and is this time used to tell a somber tale of trading one fixation for another for the sake of other people. I found the words lyrical and the art fittingly moody—there are many storms to bear and whirlpools to avoid here. I think Reynolds captured the surreal feeling of striving to become someone else, however destructive the self you are trying to shed was.

*This mini was published by a large indie printer, but I am still going with that moniker for this book, both because of its size and content. Ok? Ok.

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