Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 207 (8/29) -- Weathercraft by Jim Woodring

There are books that can be easily reviewed -- they have straightforward plots that either make sense or don't, characters whose motives are explicable and definable, and settings that relate to places in the real world. And then there are the works of Jim Woodring, where nothing is explained, nothing is stable, and nothing is like anyone else's work. And it's absolutely goddamn genius.

Weathercraft is the new "Frank" story from Woodring, a wordless excursion into a world where a pig-man is tormented horribly by a smirking crescent-moon-faced figure and the fabric of reality is literally ripped aside to reveal the secrets behind. The only words in Weathercraft are on the outside, with a cast of characters listed on the back of the book (in words that I would call deliberately obfuscatory if I weren't absolutely sure that Woodring is being as clear and precise as he can be) and a FAQ on the back flap -- by the way, all of those words on the outside of Weathercraft are clearly by Woodring himself, and, again, he explains as well as he can.

The joys of Woodring comics are twofold: first of all, there's his supple and detailed art, with its nuance of gesture and expression, which makes even his most twisted and seemingly-hideous characters believable, even lovable, in their own ways. But even more important is the view into Woodring's world, where his unique logic -- that of a realm roughly bounded by nightmare, hallucination, and religious epiphany -- renders indescribable scenes and figures with the clarity and majesty of our own dreams.

I could no more explain what happens in Weathercraft than I could build a hydrogen bomb from scratch -- this book is a window into a Woodring world, which only Woodring can fully explain. But it is mostly about the greedy and unpleasant Manhog and his sufferings at the hands of the god-like figure Whim and/or two witches who are never named. Frank, the usual main character in this milieu, is seen only glancingly; the action swirls around him, but leaves him intact. Not so Manhog, who suffers horribly for his past and future sins (which, Woodring assures us on the flap, have been copious and massive).

There is no one like Jim Woodring, and comics are immeasurably strengthened by the fact that he's chosen this art-form to work in. I can't say that Weathercraft is a particularly strong or weak Woodring work; conventional measurements and judgements simply don't apply here. Weathercraft is a hundred-page dose of pure Woodring -- no more, no less. There is no one like him; there can be no one like him. If you have any feeling in your soul, Weathercraft will confuse and mesmerize you.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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