I’m mostly familiar with Kristyna Baczynski’s work because of her recent excellent graphic novel Retrograde Orbit, but the Eisner-nominated British cartoonist is well-regarded for her self-published works (which she self-published a how-to guide for), and her diary comics through her Patreon.
These three titles are self-published minis and if you have only encountered Retrograde Orbit, fair warning, they are a much different animal — at least, in format, which is more like reprints from a private, hand-written nature journal. But the sensibility is obviously from the same person — gentle inquiry is the main trait on display here.
These are helpful documentations of what Baczynski has spotted in her nature excursions, organized seasonally (and I feel certain a summer edition will follow) and offering information about the plants as well as uses, all with a friendly sense of humor. I’m not very knowledgable about plant life, so there were plenty of revelations in these books for the likes of me — who knew that ivy flowered in the winter for late year pollinators? Not me, but Baczynski does. She’s able to mark what makes good food, for humans or animals, like different parts of a plant that lurks on seaside cliffs (and looks a lot like hemlock, so be careful before eating!) and what other uses the plants might have, like the sap from an alder tree being used as a dye by witches.
These are fun and informative little books that embrace a playful cartoonishness in their function as charming introductions to Baczynski’s interests, as well as sparking a desire for a more detailed pursuit of the subject matter she presents.
The Beat previously reported that the first issue of Fissure is available to read online for free () and if you enjoy it — and I think you will — you might want to graduate to this trade paperback collection of the first four issues.
The town of El Sueño, Texas, is divided by its own prejudices, and they aren’t uncommon ones these days, particularly a hostility towards Mexican immigrants. At the center of this explosive enmity is Hark and Avery Lee , who are expecting a baby together, but any slight chance they might have had in seizing some peace in their situation is completely disrupted when the town’s emotional division manifests as a fissure in the earth that swallows up a good portion of the population.
Much of the four-issue expanse revolves around the couple’s attempts to figure out what in the world they should do about this situation, as well as flashing back to several pivotal moments in their relationship. In spirit, Hark and Avery Lee represent the divided communities not only working together but being together, as they look down a pit of darkness that mirrors the soul of the town itself.
One of the innovations here is Avery Lee, a pregnant Latinx woman who isn’t portrayed as being dependent either mentally or physically, but an equal partner with Hark in the terrifying adventure that ensues. If this isn’t the most complex examination of the issue of prejudice and division, it’s aspects like Avery Lee’s portrayal that makes it stand out, as well as Patricio Delpeche ’s artwork, which offers an exciting pace even as it reminds me of David Small, which makes it seem like an unusual choice, but it’s a humanizing one.
The book works as a standalone, with the ending offering commentary on the viral nature of prejudice and our difficulty in stamping it out forever, but it’s also designed to leave the story open for more. That’s unnecessary, but Daniel can continue to defy cliches, offer insight, and still keep it fun, it’s definitely worth further pursuits.
John Seven is a journalist and children’s book writer living in North Adams, Massachusetts. His books include ‘A Rule Is To Break: A Child’s Guide To Anarchy,’ ‘Happy Punks 1-2-3,’ ‘Frankie Liked To Sing,’ and others. Find out about all his things at johnseven.me.