Centrala are perhaps the UK’s most overlooked indie comics publisher, bringing international work to English-speaking audiences, but notably showcasing experimental and alt graphic narratives from less familiar European traditions of comics. We’ve covered a number of their books over the years including Anubis, The Empty Space, Staring from the Hill and the much acclaimed Chernobyl: The Zone.
Blood is a women’s comics anthology from Poland that is presented in a bilingual format. Its contributors take inspiration from its one-word titular theme to provide a wide-ranging line-up of takes on that subject from the cultural, the historical, the biological and the symbolic.
Collections like this are, of course, an excellent opportunity to be introduced to creators we were previously unaware of and Blood has a number of artists within its pages who will certainly be worth investigating further in due course. Beata Sosnowska’s woodcut-style take on creation myths (above) is an instant example with its representational uses of red and metaphorical sequencing placing sophisticated visually storytelling within the framework of constructed naïve allegory, as she subverts religious tradition to powerful effect.
Similarly Maria Kadyszewska’s ‘Dimming’ also provides a silent comics short with a fatalistic take on the theme; powerful and stark imagery leaving an impression of unassailable melancholia on the reader. More celebratory in its approach is Olga Wróbel’s ‘Chicken Broth’, a tribute to her displaced grandparents and their sense of community which appeals to the reader with a presentational style that sits somewhere between scrapbook and illustrated biography.
It’s Anna Krztoń’s ‘Roots’ (above) that’s the book’s standout offering though, using the symbolic language of comics to create an expansive sense of family and lineage; something which is also echoed in the minimalism of Aga Gójska’s ‘Bonds’ (top banner image) which uses single page images mixing illustration and collage to emphasise the inescapable nature of familial connection. Zavka’s ‘Flight’ (below) takes a very different approach, providing a more traditional piece of panel-to-panel storytelling that explores the idea of blood in a more literal sense in a tale of a woman who finds herself launched into space in an exploding, flying elevator. Zavka slowly strips away the walls of perception here with a quirky cartooning style that ironically makes the reality of events all the more disturbing in their conclusion.
Other stories range from the interconnectivity of the environment to historical portraiture, with a final text section allowing the artists to speak about their places in the project and how they interpreted its theme. Blood is an excellent example of work that genuinely explores the wider narrative techniques that comics can employ. Just one of many that can be found in Centrala’s catalogue of alternative European material.
Aga Gójska, Anna Krzton, Beata Sosnowska, Kasia Kowalczyk, Maria Kadyszewska, Marta Zabłocka, Natalia Kulka, Olga Wróbel, Zavka (W/A) • Centrala, £15.00
Review by Andy Oliver