Saturday, December 08, 2012

Gloriana by Kevin Huizenga

Comics can be as smart as anything else, as focused on ideas and deep thoughts as any other art form -- in fact, comics' immediate, graphic nature can make it easier to present complicated concepts by combining pictures and text.  And at the middle Kevin Huizenga's small collection of Glenn Ganges stories Gloriana, there's an excellent example of that -- a chart-filled, text-dense explication of the moon illusion, partially told by Glenn to his neighbors on seeing a huge, red moon at the horizon and partially told directly to us the readers by Huizenga through Glenn.

Huizenga's comics work has a strong experimental/formalist streak to begin with, and Gloriana -- collecting four stories, three of them closely linked, originally published in Huizenga's comics ten years ago -- sees him pushing comics out in two directions, both the schematic moon-explanation of "The Moon Rose" and the pure tone-poem comic at the ending of "The Sunset," with exhilarating results.The other two stories -- "The Groceries" and "Basketball" -- are more conventional, slice-of-life stories, one serving as an introduction to the sun and moon stories, the other a shorter look backward at Glenn and/or Huizenga's life (it's not clear which, or if that's even a meaningful distinction).

Gloriana is comics the way most of us have never seen it -- one part post-Crumb personal soul-searching, one part Larry Gonickian explanation of complicated topics, and several parts pure Huizengian fascination with the hidden depths of the world, both interpersonal and scientific. It's exhilarating and demanding and lovely and utterly modern.

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