Entropy Editions Round-Up : “65 Bugs” By Dean Sudarsky

Concluding our look at titles currently available from publisher Justin Skarhus’ Entropy Editions we come to catalogue number EE04, 65 Bugs, a formally conservative but conceptually innovative work from Providence’s Dean Sudarsky, who takes the format of the short-form newspaper strip and turns it on its ear by pairing visual simplicity with dense existential complexity to fashion an eight-page mini that exerts a strange hold on readers — or at least it did on this reader — long after the covers are closed. Sex, death, ennui, and the endless search to break free from life’s routines are all touched upon here — among other weighty concerns — but at the end of the day we’re still talking about a mini that is, perhaps against all odds, inherently fun, and if all of that sounds more than a bit contradictory on its face to you, well, that’s as I’m surmising Sudarsky wishes it to be.

Like the other comics in the EE range, then, it’s more than fair to label this as a “challenging” read, but the kicker is that it doesn’t particularly feel like one on first pass-through — sure, there’s a sense of “what exactly am I reading here?” that comfortably segues into “what did I just read here?” when all is said and done, but regardless of how one chooses to answer those questions, I think it’s a relatively safe bet that most readers, perplexed or not, won’t hesitate to call the book enjoyable, even if they’re not exactly certain just what it is that they enjoyed.

Vaguely anthropomorphized insects going about their business, forever contending with the natural elements as well as their own innate abilities (or lack thereof) are as viable a tool as any for exploring quandaries both philosophical and physical, but only because Sudarsky thought of it, which means that we’re firmly in auteur territory with this one, even if the whys and wherefores behind the cartoonist’s creative choices remain forever and just slightly out of reach. I know I’ve racked my brain with questions in regard to both what Sudarsky is saying as well as how he’s trying to say it, but when something feels right and sincere and genuine — as this comic surely does — then there truly does come a point where overthinking things defeats the purpose, and you start to question your own need to figure everything out. Sometimes, after all, artists make the decisions they make on instinct and impulse alone, and while this is a tightly-structured work down to its very core, that doesn’t preclude it from being the product of muse-following, now does it?

What’s not up for debate is Sudarsky’s deep knowledge of the traditions he’s drawing from — as well as drawing upon — in this work. This is smart, solid, informed, and self-aware cartooning that plays to its own strengths while pushing the thematic envelope gently and with a great deal of assurance. It’s a unique comic, absolutely, yet one that is as instantly familiar as it is perplexing. Sudarsky could do dozens, perhaps even hundreds, more pages of strips like these — and my sincere hope is that one day he will — and each would feel its own particular blend of tried-and-true and utterly alien because that dichotomy is baked into the premise on the one hand, and into the artist’s execution of it on the other. That, friends, is as purely skilled as things get in this medium we love so much.

In fairness, however, I can see where those who like a project’s raison d’etre to be stated for them plainly might find this to be something of an extended “WTF moment” — or perhaps even a series of them. But even such an aesthetically conservative reader will never feel completely outside of their “comfort zone” here, only confronted with the fact that perhaps it’s not so comfortable as they’d always assumed. I’m of a mind that such exercises in upending conformity and preconception are almost always of value, but who are we kidding? That’s not a view shared by all. Simply put, then, if this comic sounds like it might not be your cup of tea, then yeah — it probably won’t be.
For the rest of us, though, this is a reading experience rooted in what we know, yet completely different, and at times even in direct opposition, to it. Revealing hidden depths with each successive re-reading, these rank among the eight most provocative and densely-layered pages you’ll read this year — even if they look like anything but.

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65 Bugs is available from the Entropy Editions online shop at https://entropyeditions.bigcartel.com/product/65-bugs

Review wrist check – Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 53 Compression” in the “Blackout Edition” variant.

3 thoughts on “Entropy Editions Round-Up : “65 Bugs” By Dean Sudarsky

  1. Pingback: Another Time, Another Place – This Week’s Links - Avada Classic Shop

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