From it’s dayglo pink cover, through all its cranberry-red rendered interior, this portrait of a visit to hell is definitely inspired by Hieronymus Bosch — the back cover confirms this, but it seemed apparent to me from page one — by way of the kawaii aesthetic. This means that there are lots of oogly, creepy monsters in lots of gruesome crowd scenes in which atrocities, or at least ugliness, are smashed together like sardines, only this is all cute instead of horribly nightmarish.
The story itself involves adorable demon creatures Minty and Bobby Dal visiting Minty’s mother in Hell. They even get a lift there by some kind of angel that helps them avoid the giant fish monster things.
From there, it’s all kind of a typical visit home, except that it takes place in a Bosch painting, so everything’s unsettling.
Chrzanowski does a good job rendering the scenery with her basic lines, which she scrawls amply around panels and pages, filling everything up well and providing the same sort of overload that a Bosch painting does. If the lines aren’t so varied from one another, that’s okay, since it creates a puzzle-like and design-like quality to the whole thing and challenges the reader to actually focus on what they’re supposed to be seeing, rather than letting their minds wander off into the the complications of Hell.
What starts with a UFO sighting in a car one night turns into something more earthly and, for kids, something probably much more terrifying. After the incident, the cracks in Mom and Dad’s marriage begin to show and a slow disintegration begins to happen as divorce becomes inevitable.
With colorful, childlike artwork that effectively captures the experience of a kid whose family is changing, Kenins injects paranormal ideas into this family drama, specifically alien abduction, as a way to portray an alienation that can grow between people and, especially if you’re a kid, happen with no explanation. It can seem all of a sudden, and the child might grasp for answers.
By the end of this short but affecting piece, Kenins suggests that memory, especially when it involves unusual events, is rooted in need. We remember what we need to remember, and we remember it in such a way that mysteries have explanation. Memories, sometimes, are sometimes stories we tell ourselves to explain events we can’t fathom.
Space Rope: Mars & Venus by Casey Bohn
On its surface, Space Rope: Mars & Venus from Oily Comics is a well-humored throwback to the type of science fiction horror stories that you might have found in the 60s or 70s in Marvel Comics, or, even better, a Charlton or Gold Key title. But thanks to the afterword, you’ll find there’s another level to it that will touch you.
Divided into three standalone stories, Space Rope is an alien plant that that is sentient and mobile, and often in conflict with humans. It can slither, it can simulate other forms, it’s a perfect life form. In the first story, Space Rope is being hunted down by alien men in black types. In the second, it is targeted as the ultimate meal for a rich man. For the third, it is the subject of an experiment.
Bohn is great at the over the top dialogue reminiscent of the old comics I mentioned, especially in the second story. The art, in a weird way, reminds me of stripped down Steve Ditko, which is perfect given the subject matter.
The afterword traces Bohn’s conception of Space Rope as an examination of her own journey as a transgender woman. It’s an honesty that adds unexpected emotional depth to a comic that is already delightful on its own terms.
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.