07 June 2012

Journey Into Space

Comic hardcover, n.pag.
Published 2008 (content: 2002-04)
Borrowed from a friend

Read May 2012
The Acme Novelty Library, Number 19
by F. C. Ware

When a friend of mine here in Connecticut learned that I was reading Chris Ware's The Smartest Kid on Earth, Jimmy Corrigan, he offered to loan me this, an installment in Ware's occasional periodical series. He had found the book in a trash can in his apartment when he lived in Cincinnati, and rescued it only to realize that he shared his hometown of Omaha with Ware. He kept it, but felt compelled to hide it in his closet so he could avoid any awkward questions with his roommate about why he was taking stuff out of the trash. I don't know why it was thrown away, as it's perfectly intact.

It's also a tremendously good book. There are two halves; the first is a science fiction story about a colonization mission to Mars, while the second is about the writer of that story. The sf story ("The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars") is a dark, disturbing descent for one of the four people on the space mission. Science fiction turns out to be a really good genre for Ware, allowing him to attach his human themes to cosmic anchors. It's a disturbing and heart-rending tale of isolation and obsession.

The second story tells us about the writer of "The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars," W. K. Brown, an obituary writer in the 1950s, who is in a sexual relationship he doesn't really understand. It's very reminiscent of some of the material covered in Jimmy Corrigan, but it comes at it from a sufficiently different angle to work.

It goes without saying that 1) both stories are incredibly depressing, though not as much as Jimmy Corrigan, thank God, 2) the art is excellent, and Ware's style is particularly suited to 1950s sf for some reason, and 3) his use of panel size to generate emotional response is unparalleled.  Good stuff.

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