From the ongoing serial PARTY PLANS to her editorial handiwork in the anthology DIMENSIONS, the resounding and gripping nature of Zejian Shen’s work have marked her as a luminary young cartoonist to keep your eyes peeled on. At the core of her comics is the undeniably imaginative and surreal design of her characters; their distorted and grotesque figures imbue a spectrum of reactive sensations ranging from terror and aversion to humorous glee and wonder. When I first took note of Zejian’s aesthetic stylings via her VICE one-offs, I was most taken with her blown-up panels that fully featured her inventive, anthropomorphic characters which were always bizarrely alien as well as an on point representation of a contemporary 21st century young person (the array of trendy eyewear and hairstylings modeled on her blog are a notable feature of Zejian’s design). It’s hard not to be engrossed by the enticing twinkle in her characters’ stare, even if such is being depicted in a moment of savage bloodshed.
Zejian’s newest release, aptly titled KEEP FRESH, carries on in her recognizable heavy black inking, this time chronicling a bilingual story about a young girl working at a 24-hour Chinese take-out shop, who out of the blue receives a mysterious package from a possibly murderous motorcyclist. By uniquely merging the comic’s original Chinese with English subtitling, KEEP FRESH thus becomes a unique take on global comic storytelling as well as an experimentation with the mode of translation. Zejian blends both languages as a means of dialogue, background text and effect, and even implements a sense of multicultural identity. True to form, KEEP FRESH also includes the kind of sharp rendering that make her work so lush and energetic, with the familiar full panels of dynamic physical brawls that are always a pleasure in Zejian’s storytelling.
Aimed for release at the upcoming Comic Arts Brooklyn, KEEP FRESH is published by Retrofit Comics as well as Big Planet Comics. Until then, peep this preview that Zejian was kind enough to pass along.