With COVID-19 lockdowns affecting so many of us, and with any number of related financial uncertainties coming part and parcel with them, it seems to me that what a lot of folks could use right now are some good new comics that can be had at a reasonable price and enjoyed over and over again. If you agree with that sentiment, then meet your new best friend — Australian cartoonist Mandy Ord.
Hers is a name new to me, I admit, but apparently she’s been at it (and by “it,” I mean both cartooning and self-publishing) for quite some time, even if much of her “back catalogue” has only recently been made available for purchase online — either via her own Etsy shop or, especially convenient for North American readers, John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half distro outfit. I got two of her early-2010s minis from John a couple weeks back and was absolutely floored by them both, so we’ll take them in the order I read them, the first being Cold, a thematically-interlinked trilogy of autobiographical stories that are all about being, well, cold.
Interestingly enough, Ord’s frozen her ass off in two of the same places I have — the Australian outback and northern Canada (okay, fair enough, all of Canada is “northern”) — but the third location where she’s spent time in frigid temps is the one most people will have familiarity with, that being New York (yes, I’ve been there, but only in the summer). It’s not necessarily the locales that matter most here, though, but the commonality — indeed, the universality — of experience. Roughing it in the elements when it’s well beyond merely “chilly” is simply no damn fun no matter where you’re at.
Fortunately, though, creativity is hardly in hibernation in the pages of this addictive and engaging mini. Even if you’ve lived your entire life in warm climes, you’ll feel the chill in your bones, so expressive is Ord’s rich, deeply-intuitive and almost supernaturally-communicative cartooning. Her heavy black line is thick, lush, and singular — you’ve seen art vaguely like this before, sure,but generally in woodcuts. On the comics page? Not so much. To put it bluntly and admittedly unimaginatively, this is absolutely great-looking stuff.
Much as I could spend all day or night looking at Ord’s illustrations, though, they’re much better utilized in service of story, and her matter-of-fact narration (first-person, of course) and equally no-frills dialogue create an atmosphere of ominousness, of life on the very brink, but please don’t misunderstand : there’s an admirably naturalist undercurrent of humor running throughout here, as well, and that elevates the proceedings considerably while (crucially, if you ask me) in no way compromising them. There are laughs to be had, yes, but they’re not cheap, and they certainly don’t come at the cost of the tone and mood that’s already been established — in point of fact, they accentuate it. This is really skilled writing, and you know it while you’re reading it. In fact, I daresay that this is one of those comics that you could give to someone with no familiarity with the medium whatsoever and they’d be mightily impressed — to the point where they’d probably love to see a whole lot more.
As would I — and you, trust me. So we’ll take a look at the other Ord mini I recently read, Water. tomorrow.
Cold is available for $4.00 from Spit And A Half at https://www.spitandahalf.com/product/cold-by-mandy-ord/
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