Rounding out the first “season” of Spiny Orb Weaver – the spotlight publication on artists from the South Florida scene – the second and third issues of this Radiator Comics series provide another strong mix of appealingly quirky comics and insightful text pieces.
For those who enjoy their comics fare with a healthy helping of the gloriously idiosyncratic then Spiny Orb Weaver #2’s lead story by Drew Lerman will certainly capture your imagination. Pals Dav and Roy decide to take the strange Head on a Stone (an inanimate rock with facial features) for a seafaring trip to ease all their feelings of existential angst. But when the Head is dropped overboard in a slapstick accident what can the duo do to stop it being lost at sea forever? And given what it finds in those murky depths does it even want to be found?
As a project with the aim of bringing indie creators to wider audiences it may seem like dipping in to an ongoing fictional reality in Spiny Orb Weaver #2 could be seen as something of a risk without the context of the wider body of work. But so engagingly odd is Drew Lerman’s ‘Head Trip!’, taking place in the world of his Snake Creek strip, that it can only entice the casual reader into investigating further. The amiable humour of this eccentric offering comes from what are almost parallel narratives – Head on a Stone’s locked-in intelligence largely unaware of the environment outside itself, and Dav and Roy oblivious to Head’s sentience despite the fact that they are navigating the same events. Lerman’s cartooning perfectly embodies the welcome weirdness of the story with some wonderful, almost gurning visual characterisation.
In the same issue Christopher López’s ‘Beach Day’ is an autobio return to childhood that recaptures innocent family days at the beach. It’s a wistfully nostalgic story but one that never descends into mawkishness. It speaks to its audience so eloquently by drawing on familiar shared experiences – the feel of hot sand, the smell of the sea and the sensation of grains between our toes. López adds to this child’s eye sense of place and time by using playful zoom-ins, perspectives, and panel placement on larger backgrounds. It’s a simple yet elegant reminder of how seemingly inconsequential things like the sound of waves can connect us so firmly to our pasts and our loved ones.
Spiny Orb Weaver #3 takes the social commentary route via Jamila Rowser and buttercup. We join some of the stars of reality TV series ‘Real Realm’ – the gods Ebony, Juanita, Fatima and Aisha – at its reunion show special as they look back on its highlights (including the gods partying Miami to ruins to give you an idea of their destructive antics!). There are the obvious allusions to pop culture and the cult of celebrity neatly played out here but there’s also an interestingly ironic juxtaposition where we’re asked to find the humanity in the deific who represent the supreme stand-ins in terms of how we perceive celebrities.
Rowser’s tale is a timely reminder that both potential frailty and potential greatness is inherent in all of us but it also feels more like an intro into a far more extensive narrative. It would be intriguing to see a return to these characters. Artist buttercup has a fluid, lively cartooning style and their fight scenes have a dynamic power to them, fitting of the celestial conflicts they depict. The kinetic energy in one double-page spread particularly stands out.
Complementing the comics practice are more interviews where editor Neil Brideau speaks to the contributors about their work. Issue #2 also features an interesting piece by noted comics commentator Rob Clough on the South Florida comics scene while issue #3 has a revealing back and forth from remus jackson and Mar Julia on how South Florida has influenced their work. Spiny Orb Weaver‘s blend of comics practice and comics analysis continues to be a winning combination.
Drew Lerman, Christopher López, Jamila Rowser (W), Drew Lerman, Christopher López, buttercup (A) • Radiator Comics, $10.00
Review by Andy Oliver