Over the last few weeks we’ve been gradually catching up with some of the recent issues of Youth in Decline’s quarterly art and comics monograph series Frontier. The latest number of this creator spotlight project is the subject of our attention today with an edition featuring the work of TV on the Radio lead singer Tunde Adebimpe. Something of a Renaissance man, Adebimpe’s practice has crossed many mediums including animation, acting, music, directing and cartooning.
Frontier #22 begins with a brief anecdotal text piece recounting a bad acid trip. Two pages that, for all their lack of accompanying illustration, are highly visual. Sprawling text is used to highlight changing mental states, increasing and decreasing in size and placement to mirror shifts in perception and intoxicated emotional reactions. It’s the precursor to a stream-of-consciousness reflection on life, death and (possibly!) apocryphal family secrets.
With a relentless, nihilistic rhythm, Adebimpe bookends Frontier #22 with a graphic poem on the fragility of existence (below). A procession of death in a myriad of forms rolls out under single illustrations, eerie visual metaphor mirroring the unsettling descriptive accompaniment. It’s an unceasing reminder of not just our own mortality but of the impermanence of all things; the literal and the figurative side by side, spiralling from the gravely serious to the ridiculous but with the same sense of the existentially ephemeral sitting at the heart of each page.
Sandwiched in between as interlude is a short piece on psychic ability within Adebimpe’s family line (below). This takes the form of single page portraits of family members endowed with elements of representational symbolism. There’s something very knowing about each profile, character and personality projecting directly out of each and expressive image, the life and vibrancy of this section proving an intriguing contrast with its surrounding material.
Showcase publications that allow creators experimental spaces like Frontier are owed wider acknowledgement. The idea that comics as a medium has so much room to grow and develop – that its language is an ever evolving one – is a recurring one here at Broken Frontier, both in terms of our commentary and the ruminations of our creative interviewees (perhaps best expressed by British graphic novelist Karrie Fransman here a few years ago). Frontier embodies that belief with its ever eclectic line-up of styles and approaches, and it deserves all the acclaim it’s had to date. We look forward to seeing what the series has in store for us in 2020…
Review by Andy Oliver