I did this last year, so I’m doing it again : in an effort to gin up interest in my Patreon site, I’m posting a selection of reviews that ran on there originally with the brazen goal being to get you, dear reader, to part with a buck (or more, if you wish) per month so that yours truly can find some level of intellectual justification for the sheer amount of time I put into cranking out so much comics criticism. Really, anything helps and is much appreciated. First up, a comic that pretty much everyone has been talking about, and for good reason —
Finnish cartoonist Tommi Musturi has always been something of a stylistic chameleon, a literal “man of a thousand faces” who can conjure any of them up when the need arises. In times past, this has largely meant that you never know what to expect from him from one short-form strip to the next, but in the pages of his current series, Future (self-published under his own Boing Being imprint), he’s raised the stakes considerably in that he’s incorporating any number of points along a wide stylistic continuum in service of telling a singular, unified story over the course of ten issues — I think, at any rate.
First off, Marvel and DC oughtta be ashamed of themselves : for six bucks per issue (five of which are already out) here, we are getting 28 full-color pages on high-quality paper stock between thick, glossy covers from Musturi, while they give us 28 pages on cheap, shitty paper with covers printed on the same stock as the interiors for $3.99 — and they load their books up with ads, to boot So, in addition to giving us a unique, challenging, mind-bending series, Musturi is also showing up the major publishers in a big way. Props to him for that — but hey, no matter how good a physical product might be, it’d ultimately still be worthless if the thought, technique, and execution behind it didn’t earn their fancy presentation. Musturi’s work earns it and then some.
It also presents a challenge to prospective reviewers, such as yours truly, in that the entire scope, and even the nature, of the project are still, even at the halfway point, tantalizingly out of reach : we know we’re exploring different future eras of the Earth, as the name implies, but whether or not all of them are actual, as opposed to “merely” potential, ones is very much an open question — as is the role of the AI being/device known as IDA, who may be the central organizing force linking all these disparate times and places together, may be a metafictional conceit or contrivance, may be the ultimate Deus Ex Machina, or may be some combination of all of these, if not something else entirely. It’s hard to describe, sure, but please don’t take that to mean it’s not easy enough to intuit, if not to fully as yet understand, what Musturi is doing in most of these brightly-colored, inherently eye-catching pages. Whether he’s showing us a world where art has literally been driven underground, a lost eco-utopia, a hyper-charged “reality” TV show, or a near-silent dark urban hellscape, he’s clearly and unambiguously building toward something — and it’s something very exciting indeed. He’s approaching it in non-linear fashion, and it feels very organic — think of a spider weaving a web moreso than, say, a ground-up construction project — but it’s not so much confusing as it is actively subversive.
And by that I should be clear : it subverts expectation and preconception every bit as much as it does conventionality. It’s out to blow your mind, and it surely does that, but it’s not out to just blow your mind — it’s out to expand your understanding of both the capabilities of the comics medium and, more generally (and ambitiously), the ways in which human beings (and the constructs they produce) put thought into action. Yes, we go from rough and scratchy to lush and detailed to classically “cartoony” to bold and expressionistic in accordance with scenario and environment, but these aren’t just stylistic transitions, they’re substantive ones that avail readers of the opportunity to not just think about where we’re going, so to speak, but why we’re going there and how each place came to be the way it’s depicted. I know I just said this comic is subversive, but depending on which roads Musturi takes us down, it may prove to be something considerably more than that : it might just be revolutionary.
Of course, much remains to be seen, but seeing it — as in seeing it on the page, yes, but in a larger sense seeing it unfold — is part of the process. Musturi is playing a fiendishly clever game here, engaging the reader on a level of active, rather than passive, observation, and it’s a game that he’s clearly playing for keeps : what we are looking at and reading, as well as how we are doing so, fits into the whole puzzle, in the sense that the fact we’re being narrated to, by one means or another, is never in question. This is a comic made for an audience, sure — they all are — but it’s also one that knows it has an audience and that it is speaking directly to it. Think of a television show where at least some of the actors know you’re watching, and talk back to you, and you’ll be getting a partial idea of what Musturi is doing here. Now, what if those actors on those shows were actively coalescing into a singular narrative from one channel to the next? And what if their unified grand plan had something more in mind than just a giant team-up of your favorite characters — what if they were looking to make a bold and cohesive philosophical statement?
It looks very much like Musturi is, in fact, aiming that high. He has referred to this work as his “weapon against capitalism” — and as we all know, visionary art is indeed the best weapon to confront the cold, uncaring, mechanized, denuded “reality” we’re all subject to. What shape this particular weapon will eventually take has yet to be determined, but you can be certain of two things : seeing it constructed will continue to be an awe-inspiring experience, and it will have AMAZING accuracy upon completion — so leap into the Future now by heading over to Domino Books, where our friend Austin English has all six issues released to date in stock : http://dominobooks.org/store.html
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