The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is one of the most influential and important comic book event in North America. It’s mission is to “promote the creators of comic books in their broad and diverse voices, for the betterment of the medium of comics”. In the spirit of this mission, the Comics Beat is conducting a series of short reviews on some of the phenomenal comics available at this year’s festival. There is so much phenomenal comics at the festival, it would be impossible to talk about everything. We’ll be looking at three comics at a time from TCAF (hence the pun ThreeCAF).

Mana, by Priya Huq

I’ve already spoken about my admiration for Priya Huq, and specifically for Mana on this website. This is the first printed volume collecting all of the work to date with a handful of additional art near the end. It looks gorgeous. The cover looks amazing with it’s red, purple and blue watercolour depiction of the protagonist Samudra underwater with a forest backdrop. Mana is a supernatural fantasy comic where a swordswoman named Samudra  embarks on a quest to find an ocean and meets a stranger suffering from memory loss. I was surprised by the smaller size of the comic, perhaps because I’m so used to seeing it on a screen, it felt smaller than I would have hoped. Nevertheless, Mana is a beautiful comic. You can get a copy on Priya’s online store. If you haven’t done so already, Priya has done an amazing interview with us at the Beat. Go check it out!

Idealism and Idealism II, by Shee Phon

Idealism and Idealism II are collections of Shee Phon’s short stories. I’m looking at these two together because they are drastically different in style yet they each have their strengths. Each issues have two short stories, normally revolving around embarrassment, insecurity, inadequacy. The first issue is in black and white. There’s an energy to her lines that is really powerful. A kind of controlled scribble that blackens the page leaving only her figures and limited background elements intact. This reinforces the themes of that comic since these stories are of insecurities and dark feelings and they are surrounded by black lines everywhere. The second shows a completely different side of Shee’s art. This time, the issue is done in watercolour and she plays with the layout of her page more. It feels like a real step forward stylistically. Both issues were truly beautiful!

If you haven’t done so already, Shee has done an amazing interview with us at the Beat. Go check it out!

Flu Drawings, by Michael Deforge

Flu Drawings in it’s own way, is the quintessential Michael Deforge comic. It’s about a family whose apartment building gets renovated and whose inhabitants life begins to change to adapt to the influx of new wealthy arriving to live in the newly renovated units. It’s about how there are multiple realities and how they sometimes comes clashing together. It’s not as bleak or disconcerting as some of Deforge’s other work, but with it’s outlandish drawings, prose and theme, Flu Drawing stands nicely at the intersection of All Dogs are Dogs and Big Kids and is a great addition in his body of work.

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