Monday, 8 November 2010

Review: Gang Bang Bong (2010)

Inés Estrada & Ginette Lapalme (Editors) | 20x25cm, b&w, 56 pages | $4 

The problem with reviewing any anthology is that it’s often impossible – or just plain inconsiderate – to coherently summarize a collection of individual works into a neat little byline. Barring the most restrictively themed compendiums, to attempt to reduce the individual works of contributors into an approving or condemning distillation is not achievable with a clear conscience. The upside of this for anthologists is that the vast majority of collections are buffered critically by the de facto virtue of variety. Much the opposite of a single-author review, the bias of taste (subjective scourge that it is) actually works in favour of anthologies, as the self-appointed loser blowhards that critique them will almost always find something to rave about. 

Gang Bang Bong, edited by international avant-garde comic wonderkids Inés Estrada and Ginette Lapalme (of Wowee Zonk fame), is a strange and wondrous beast that defies traditional anthology logic. Completely unconventional, if you’re the kind of reader looking for a selection of straight-ahead comic vignettes, you won’t find any here. The result is that the reader’s taste in comics becomes more important than usual in their enjoyment of an anthology. Like it or not, this collection is very much about the exploration of the comic form and the joys of subverting its established conventions. Consequently, it will no doubt find greatest success with people interested in the mechanics and (de)construction of visual storytelling. If that sounds like something that rings your bell, you’re in for a real treat. Ding ding.

Somewhere between Paul Pope and Mancuso is Ralph Niese with his sexually-charged comic Donaldiño & Simone.

Betwixt the hypnotically colourful cover lies some genuinely stand-out work that sends the established form and structure of comics through a loop. Some creators, such as Lauren Albert, Santiago Grijalva, and Garrett Young produce visually sophisticated works that attempt to find new narrative expressions within the standard apparatus of comics. Garrett Young’s piece is especially enjoyable for the way he intricately plays with the function of panels in creating a mysterious yet identifiable tension between two characters.  Much more traditionally-minded in comparison, Santiago Grijalva uses the simple insertion of abstract organic shapes to create an unsettling sense of sexual awakening in his piece “Bloom”.

Others, like Ralph Niese and Edwin Sandoval work within the traditional form of comic books to create non-sequitur-laden parodies that feature (amongst other weird and wonderful stuff) rockabilly zombie boxers and ghostly-sperm heading towards galactic vaginas. Similarly, Vice Magazine’s acerbic comic guru Nick Gazin viciously satirises (or victoriously celebrates?) the vapid, avaricious, sexually aggressive stupidity of mainstream hip hop lyrics in ‘All The Way Turned Up’; a doodlefest in which some kind of ersatz Judge Dredd decapitates what resembles an anti-gravity Segway-riding Darth Vader. I hope someone buys the rights to make that into a videogame at some point.

Garrett Young takes your common or garden Kuleshov effect and transforms it into something even more complex, with panel-less images blending together to create mystery and depth.

Wowee Zonkers Chris Kuzma and Patrick Kyle add some essential levity to the weirdness, by individually contributing appealing cartoons that feature a not-so-epic quest for a Wizard’s magical drug stash (Kyle) and a super-cute send-up of Michael Douglas’ rampage-extraordinaire Falling Down. Lapalme herself contributes several entertaining lo-fi strips, one of which features a zine that actually shits on its reader. I’m sure anyone who has walked into a small-press event with too much money and not enough self-control can relate to that.

The deconstructionist merit of these proud deviations does vary from piece to piece and a few contributions appearing to simply be anarchic refusals to adhere to any semblance of accepted craft whatsoever. However, that is to be expected of a book like Gang Bang Bong, where play is regarded as important as precision. Completely free from any thematic restrictions whatsoever, the ironic strength of the book is that due to the off-the-wall nature of each contribution, it actually becomes one of the most consistent, coherent anthologies of recent memory. Whereas most anthology editors aim to intermingle traditional and experimental pieces in order to create a complimentary flow, the duo behind this book have launched a full-scale attack in the name of iconoclastic comics. I, for one, salute them.

Approximately one 16th of Chris Kuzma's tour-de-force adaptation of Falling Down. Come back and thank me once you've read the other fifteen 16ths.

Divisive, wilfully confounding, and, at times, overstepping the tolerable boundaries of experimental form, I found reading Gang Bang Bong to be an absolutely rewarding experience. Sure, it might be a little difficult at times, but to paraphrase the tired old cliché, what of any value isn’t? In many ways, it’s like an earnest version of Dylan Sisson’s Scott McCloud parody Filibusting Comics, reminding comic readers that there are still plenty of possibilities outside of the accepted processes of comic storytelling. Available now for $40 Mexican or $4 Canadian or US), it’s recommended to all of you who felt compelled to read past the “the mechanics and (de)construction of visual storytelling”, brave souls that you are.


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5 comments:

  1. Alright, anybody else who is putting together an anthology, TELL ME.
    I want to be in it next time!

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  2. Great review and a truly astonishing anthology, we can also highly recommend it, if you are in for something very special!

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  3. @Noah: Is that you Van Sciver? You people better tell him, next time!

    @kuš!: I thought you guys would love it! I'd love to see a cross-over issue: "kuš! x GBB"!

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  4. every comic reviewed except mine hahahaha

    great anthology though, very true review

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