Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #59: The Collected Sequential by Paul Hornschemeier

Someday Paul Hornschemeier will be so famous and lauded that everyone will remember how to spell his name -- even me. Until that day, though, I'll keep triple-checking every time I look at one of his projects, eternally unsure if I have enough "e"s in there or not. [1]

The Collected Sequential isn't going to be the book that does that for him. Not because it's not good -- though I'll get into its strengths later -- but because it's the 2004 collection of his first self-published comics series from 1999-2001, from a small comics-publishing house and not in wide distribution a decade and a half later.

What's most likely to make Hornschemeier famous is more books like the strong graphic novels Mother, Come Home and Life With Mr. Dangerous. His short work tends to be weirder and more elliptical, and this collection even more so than later books like All and Sundry and Let Us Be Perfectly Clear.

Let me be honest: this is quite weird, a lot of very short experiments and collections of panels that mostly don't aim to be "stories" in a conventional sense. A bunch of them are jokes, more or less, but very elliptical ones that relied on very particular things Hornschemeier knew at the time for their punch. Some of the stuff in here is more successful than others, as usual for a miscellany and doubly usual for someone's first comics work. Even the "successful" pieces, though, are difficult to describe and explain -- Hornschemeier is a creator who shows things that can't be put clearly into words (or at least not put clearly into words by me, which is the important point right this second).

His art got stronger and more consistent than it was at the beginning of this project, but it did so quickly and almost completely -- the first issue, dated February 1999, is a little rougher and less assured, but the last page of that issue is pretty confident, and the second issue (from that April) takes that confidence and runs with it. You might not be quite clear what Hornschemeier means or is trying to do at any given moment, but you can't deny that it's exactly what he wanted to do, whatever it was.

Again, this is the earliest work of someone who got better at his craft (of making stories in particular, since he was good at the picture-making side of comics very quickly) and who has expanded to much longer works since this. At this point in the history of the universe, you'll want to check out Sequential when you've a) discovered Hornschemeier and b) worked your way backwards through the rest of his work. If you get there, it's an intriguing, unusual destination.

[1] Writing this post, I realize I consistently dropped one of those pesky "e"s in my post about Let Me Be Perfectly Clear, and that no one noticed for several years. It's correct now. I think.

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