The story behind Jonathan Traynor’s first self-published comic BUG+ is a fascinating sidebar in itself. Originally presented online during the pandemic, the comic’s first iteration consisted of 31 panels published daily over the space of a month, based on individual thematic prompts for each part. Now collected together in a print edition this story of robotic insects finding their place in the world has been significantly expanded upon. Traynor (aka Jof!) has taken the original panel-a-page tale and added a further 31 new pages. The result is a minicomic where the right-hand pages re-present the story in its original silent form but with the left-hand pages now fleshing out events with new comic strips inserted.
What follows is an exercise that combines science fiction world-building with an allegorical account of place, security and belonging that will connect with the reader on a more personal level. The basic premise sees two bug-like robots seeking haven from robotic avian predators, with Jof!’s art employing a kinetic, manga-inspired sense of motion, often aided by blurred effects that ensure that idea of movement is an ever-present one. Even sound effects feed into this feeling of perpetual activity with a considered and onomatopoeic flourish.
What’s fascinating about the project is the different ways in which the reader will find themselves interacting, interpreting and connecting with what is essentially the same story in two different formats. It takes us back to that idea of reading between the panels and making our own narrative leaps about events. In the first version that is obviously all the more pronounced with the bare events being depicted but the motivations and wider characterisation being left to the audience to fill in.
In the second incarnation much more about this world and its workings is revealed. It’s the difference between reacting to the story on an instinctual and an intellectual level, and becomes an intriguing exercise in analysing the nature of reading comprehension in regards to sequential art as well. Noticeably confident and assured debut work from an artist to keep an eye out for.
Jof! (W/A) • Self-published, £7.00
Review by Andy Oliver