Friday, 16 April 2010

Review: Mermin Issue 1, Joey Weiser (self-published, 2010)

Mermin #1

Following swiftly on from his graphic novel Cavemen in Space (our review here), Joey Weiser has launched Mermin, a self-published serial that follows the misadventures of a young aquatic boy, as he escapes his underwater home and  learns about the strange, and often confusing surface world. First made available to contributors of the Cavemen in Space fundraiser, the comic makes its debut tomorrow at the FLUKE festival (read our preview of the event and its fantastic free anthology here) in Athens, GA.

A true "fish-out-of-water" (joke alert) tale, Mermin is about a small aquatic boy  (think The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s much cuter son)  who is on the run from the mysterious undersea Kingdom he once called home. Befriending three human children, the scaly runaway must come to terms with his new, dryer, existence as he attempts to fit in to humanity, school, tetherball and gym class. It's not quite as idyllic as it sounds though, he has more than his fair share of problems in the way of school bullies, a whole host of sea creatures determined to find him, and, of course, gym class. You see, Mermin has a pretty major problem; amphibious as he may be, he's deadly afraid of water. And we thought we hated swimming at school.


This first issue begins in medias res, with Mermin, (dressed in what resembles a torn-up jumpsuit from a 1970s space-drama)  washing up on the shore. Unconscious, he is soon woken up by three kids, Pete, Claire and her brother Toby, who befriend him over the evergreen pastime of "keeping the beach ball in the air" (does that even have a real name?). Super strong and agile, he's quickly accepted by the children even before he rescues Pete from a shark.

Given a home by Pete’s dubious but receiving parents, Mermin is even allowed a place at the children’s school when the Principle (believing Mermin to be a human boy with a rare skin condition) unconditionally enrols him through fear of a public relations disaster. I'm not afraid to admit that these sections of the comic gave me warm childhood memories of "creature X lives with human family" sitcoms like Alf or Harry and the Hendersons. 1980s/90s guilty pleasures aside, this kind of story has an enduring quality to it that survives because these misfit non-human characters act as mirrors of ourselves and our environment; reflecting both the strangeness and wonder of the world whilst communicating the often confusing process of living in it.

From a visual point of view, Weiser continues to hone his smooth cartoon curvature, and produces his best work yet. There’s a duality to the illustration, with a surprising amount of detail co-existing with the cartoony aesthetic the artist employs. Our favourite sequence from the issue sees a splash-page-sized hoard of fish invade the school swimming pool. Absolutely striking, it showcases Weiser’s ability to create a grand, detailed image whilst simultaneously endowing the narrative with a much-needed sense of panic and desperation.

The buildup to said "splash"-page. Honestly, These puns write themselves.

This debut issue functions just as it should, serving as an introduction for the basic concept whilst introducing the protagonists and forming the relationship between them.  Remarkablly well-paced considering how much narrative framework Weiser imparts in just 38 pages, Mermin is perfect for adults, adolescents and children alike. Although Mermin is very cute, and his main characters are children, this is definitely a comic for everyone, again, mainly due to how relatable Mermin himself is. His experiences as an outsider, again, functions as somewhat of an analogy, as his awkward yet enthusiastic efforts to fit into the hyper-social school environment draw comparisons to the anxiety-ridden identity-conscious years of  our school days.

In our interview with Joey Weiser, he made two things abundantly clear: the first was he believed the “all-ages” label should mean exactly that, without being encumbered with the marketing baggage of being associated solely with children; Secondly, he stated his interest in working with the declining issue-by-issue comic format. With Mermin, he addresses both points. Accessible to all, the author also takes full advantage of the publishing format, creating a compelling cliff-hanger that drives forth the plot. We here at the blog can't wait for the next issue!

For those who can't attend FLUKE this weekend, Mermin #1 will soon be available for purchase via Joey Weiser's website. We recommend it to all you out there who desire a straight-ahead comic narrative that's full of charm, fun and swimming pools full of fish. In addition to shipping with a totally-neat sticker, readers can also expect to see a shark receiving a flying kick TO THE FACE.

We're going to need a bigger boat  more Kung-Fu.


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