Colossive Press’s Colossive Cartographies have become such a well-regarded series of zines not simply because of the clever ways in which each creator uses the Turkish Map Fold format to complement the themes of their narratives but also for the diverse and eclectic subjects and approaches realised in each and every “issue”. Just a couple of weeks back, for example, we looked at #51 – Ed Pinsent’s ‘False Alarm: The Collapse of False-Face’ – and its parody of the quirky excesses of decades-old super-hero comics. This time around it’s Colossive Cartographies #52 and Becky Bell’s short comic ‘Be Brave’, a sensitive piece of graphic medicine.
One of the great joys of the Cartographies series is it propensity for introducing me to voices I have yet to hear from. ‘Be Brave’ is an account of Bell’s own micropthalmia, a congenital ocular condition where babies are born with one eye smaller than the other, and with accompanying anatomical malformations. Rather than focussing specifically on her condition, though, ‘Be Brave’ is rather a loving dedication to the parents who ensured that Bell learnt to live with her disability and the loving support they gave her.
There’s a presentational rawness to this comic that gives it an added texture of authenticity and immediacy; each illustrative panel crammed into a sea of text flowing down the page, overlapping and pushing at the boundaries of each other as familial tableaux speak of care, kindness and love. The features of the “characters” are completely stripped back, asking us to interpret their relationships through subtly expressed body language rather than expression. As contradictory as it may sound, this actually allows us to form a strangely profound connection with them, despite the seeming emotional disconnection it would imply.
Yet another entry in this excellent series that you will spend far longer thinking about than its brief “page” count would suggest.
Becky Bell (W/A) • Colossive Press, £2.00
Review by Andy Oliver