Maple Key Comics #1
Editor/Publisher Joyana McDiarmid says in her intro that she put this collection together - and the issues that will follow - as an attempt to replicate on the page the creative cartooning community she found at the Center for Cartoon Studies. She gets a lively, entertaining result with the mix of creators she’s invited, and with over 300 pages in it, there’s a lot of community between the covers, all of it energetic.
Of course, as with any anthology, I have my favorites, and I’ll cover those here.
The book opens with Jon Chad’s inventive eco-science fiction story The Surena Giant, which chronicles a small team of researchers investigating problems in an animal population just outside of a domed city and beginning to face similar issues ot the creatures they study.
Sophie Goldstein’s The Oven continues the science fiction vibe. About a couple leaving their futuristic city for a smaller home that offers some bigger hopes as well as some uneasy feelings. It’s the first part of three, well-wrought, and Goldstein’s cartooning is charming, particularly the futuristic technology.
Billage’s Sailing Bird is a good nautical slice of life, about one girl’s attempt to get a job on the sailing boat - this is definitely the first part of a continuation. I won’t give anything away, but a good drama has been set up and Billage has a good style for depicting movement and personality, so it promises to be interesting.
Luke Howard’s impressive Talk Dirty To Me kicks off with an intricate, impressive splash page and unfolds into a deadpan delight about awkwardness and repression that takes place at least partially at a phone sex business, but also covers a stilted relationship. More will undoubtably unfold in the next five chapters.
Neil Brideau’s A Dragon At The Gatehouse is a personable encounter between a traveller and a hermit, chatting before dining and comparing the differences of their lives. This is a conversatoin in cartoon form, continually lively, and Brideau brings good depth to the two characters. This is the first part of six, so I’m interested in what direction it takes.
Laurel Holden’s The Face In the Cloud offers some intrigue amidst some touching humor and an interesting concept, with a bereaved woman gaining a second chance with some experimental technology. Again, the first part of six, and this is a great beginning.
Joyana McDiarmid’s Hale is a family drama that reads like Wes Anderson doing science fiction, except I like it much better than I like Anderson. It’s another multi-parter, emotionally intricate, and McDiarmid’s cliffhanger is a good and sudden one.
Rachel Lindsay’s Rachel Lives Here Now is an amusing journal of the culture clash that ensues from her attendence at CCS coming from New York City. I live right on the Massachusetts/Vermont border, so I can sympathize. She’s not afraid to lob a few well-humored hard ones at the culture of her new home while still exhibiting an amusing self-deprecation in her energetic cartooning style
Will Payne’s fantasy pantomime Heartless is an engaging romance and adventure involving revenge, demons, and a banjo. It moves along with such ease, I really look forward to seeing what else comes out of Payne.
The book comes in two forms - print for $15 and digital for $6, along with some good subscription deals. It’s a bargain in either format, a lot of great comics by talented folks at the beginning of their careers. You can pick up a copy at the website.