Amid the cacophony of modern life, Nobrow Magazine launches an issue with stellar creators tackling the issue of silence in 60 pages of silent comics storytelling and 60 pages of illustration.
Ever since Nobrow re-conceptualized their Nobrow Magazine into a flipbook format, with one half being comics and the other illustration, every issue has been a sheer delight to read and marvel at.
The magazine holds a unique place in the comics world, as it spotlights emerging creators as much as established professionals – although you wouldn’t know the difference while browsing through the magazine, thanks to the keen eye of art directors Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur.
To further unify the look of the magazine, Nobrow lays down the colour choices of each issue, with this one sporting a spot colour palette of yellow, blue, pink and purple. It’s a beautiful palette, and all of the artists make great use of it. Apart from the always beautiful graphics, the success of the magazine often depends on how artists interpret the theme, and this time around Spiro and Arthur didn’t make it easy.
As the promotional copy states: ‘Silence, with its implication of stillness and absolute purity, becomes an impossibility. So how does an artist approach such a theme?’ And, not to anyone’s surprise, nature sure seems to drop in a lot.
From a graphical point of view, the illustration section gets the most out of the ‘nature’ angle with beautifully drawn tableaux. This is a great bunch of artists, but this issue sees a little bit less of the pensive focus on the more serious matters in life, replacing introspection with a sense of peace in both the comics and illustration sections. It comes as no surprise then that the best pieces are the ones that deal with the concept of silence on an emotional or cultural level.
In the comics section, Ignatz Award-winning artist Joseph Lambert turns in another thoughtful piece on how even the loudest scream can be silenced by digital media and cultural ennui.
Will Morris turns in a superbly executed tale of infidelity – a very strong emotional silence if I ever came across one. And the previously unknown Jamie Coe – although he has a graphic novel coming out through Nobrow, so he won’t be unknown for much longer – turns in a silent but vibrantly drawn tale of acceptance.
I also enjoyed the more experimental approaches of Jim Stoten’s kaleidoscopic story and Edward Carvalho Monaghan, whose quirky graphics stand out from the crowd. And, to top it all, Hellen Jo makes a rare ‘satanic’ appearance.
Illustration-wise, the most stunning piece must be the ‘people in a bomb shelter’ entry by José Luis Ágreda. His use of outlines, colour placement, triangular composition and the tense postures of all the people anxiously awaiting the (never arriving?) impact of a bomb makes the silence menacing beyond comparison.
Another particular strong piece touches on a completely different mode of silence. Owen Davey illustrates the quiet of emotional awkwardness in a style reminiscent of Eleanor Davis, but his symmetrical composition is broken up by various decorative elements and touches delicately upon the sentimentality of the situation.
Other standouts who try to offer a bit more than a dazzling picture include the Dutch artist Raymond Lemstra, John Lisle and Merijn Hos.
There are numerous other examples of great art, but the drawbacks of featuring the works of illustrators on consecutive pages are a) one can’t help but compare, so you need to be at the top of your game as an artist, and b) the entries compiling a mini-story or a recognizable primal emotion come off stronger than those taking the ‘beautiful picture’ approach.
Once more, Nobrow Magazine sets the standard for comic art, with a superb selection of artists and exquisite production values. From established pros to up-and-coming creators, art directors Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur make each issue a pure comics artifact to treasure.
Nobrow Magazine 9: It’s Oh So Quiet presents both a celebration and a glimpse into the future of comics.
Nobrow Magazine 9: It’s Oh So Quiet by various is published by Nobrow. It is a full-colour oversized softcover counting 128 pages and retails for £15.