Various Artists, (Forum Ljubljana)
Madburger is an anthology of the work of more than forty graphic artists, a collection tailored to suit even the most severe case of ADD. It's superbly diverse, ranging from relative realism to far recesses of abstraction. The unifying theme among the contributions is insanity, including anxiety, paranoia, and downright gibbering hallucination.
Some of the samples are poignant and sad, such as the beautiful, heavy feather strokes that Mac McGill uses to signify the weight of chronic depression. Others are absurd or funny, featuring ridiculous scenarios wherein townsfolk morph into shriveled monsters and a sphere-headed family is compelled to watch a daily TV program about mites.
Many of the comics comment on the madness of society and conformity at large. A husband has a meltdown shopping with his consumption-consumed wife on vacation. A doe-eyed populous bleats barcode dialogue, and is shocked into silence at the utterance of real language. A ravenous priest impales little girls in the churchyard with his Satan-possessed penis.
There's no shortage of originality within this collection, and many of the pieces are worthy of an extended mental chew before moving on to the next vignette. However, the artistic variance seems to take priority over the written content. As with most collective efforts, Madburger is somewhat hit and miss, but altogether meaty and gratifying. MARJORIE SKINNER
Madburger is available at various graphic novel retailers and online at
www.ljudmila.org/stripcore/com.htm, and www.topshelfcomix.com.
The Changers, Book 1
Ezra Claytan Daniels, (Self-published)
The Changers, Book 1 is not what you'd expect of a self-published comic. It's nearly one hundred pages of a well-paneled story made up of detailed drawings. The book was printed on thick gray paper with dark green ink, and the green on gray works well for the futuristic story.
Bisso and Geaza have traveled back in time from three million years in the future in order to serve as evolutionary catalysts for the human race of the 21st century. To complete their task, they're required to live a healthy life starting in the year 2027, and do so for 150 years, enough time for their bodies to produce the necessary chemical to spark the evolution. However, when someone from the altered future visits them in the past... well understandably, things complicate significantly.
Like any good creator of science fiction, Daniels is writing more about the present than the future. His characters give interesting insights into the everyday dealings of humans in the 21st century, looking at everything from over-population to religion. The most interesting sociological aspect of the book is the fact that the protagonists are dark skinned, and perceived to be African Americans. Daniels, through reports his characters write about the society in which they now live, gives a detailed commentary on race, and the history of the subjugation of African Americans. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH
Get The Changers at Powell's, Reading Frenzy, Excalibur Comics, and online at www.dream-chocolate.com.
Scott Bateman, (Self-Published)
Scan is successful political cartoonist Bateman's first graphic novel. It refers to a word that suddenly sets upon an anonymous town like a plague. Nothing more than harmless graffiti at first, the word "SCAN" initially shows up on walls and cars, but quickly infiltrates pretty much everything, including money, stamps, cigarettes, an old guy's dentures, and finally the brains of the townspeople.
This is by no means an original story but it's not so obvious it feels satirical either. It doesn't seem to know what it wants to be, and ultimately serves more as an excuse for Bateman to trot out a series of wacky characters than anything else. Problem is, Bateman serves his people up with a blocky, slapdash style that makes it hard to tell them apart. He does utilize a clever method of characterization, however, providing details for each character through a series of charts, graphs, and lists. For example, a list of Mayor Cope's previous campaign slogans indicates he won on the "Tough on Crime" campaign, lost on the "Tough on the Small Blue Men Who Live in My Underwear and Sing 'La Dee La Dee Da'" campaign, but won again on the "Tough on My Little Nervous Breakdown" campaign.
Clearly, Bateman has a good, if occasionally too cutesy, sense of humor, and the relentless stream of statistics pulls the reader through when the narrative doesn't. Bateman has taken the "graph" in "graphic" quite literally, which has resulted in an interesting experiment, if not an interesting novel. JUSTIN SANDERS
Look for Scan at Powell's on Burnside, various comic book stores, and online at www.batemania.com.