Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants : “Burg Land 1 – Sleemor Gank”

It takes some real guts to set your comic 100 years after the fall of an imaginary civilization readers aren’t familiar with in the first place — and to give said comic a title composed of made-up words — but if there’s one thing you can’t say about Alexander Laird, it’s that he’s a cartoonist lacking in either ambition or confidence. And that confidence and ambition carries over into every aspect of his new self-published number, Burg Land 1 – Sleemore Gank,

Indeed, from its masterful use of riso printing to its slick publication design (including a deliberately tor-out page that, bet you anything, was fully drawn regardless) to its immersive narrative to its idiosyncratic, colored-pencil art to its thick supplemental insert written entirely in a coded alien language invented by the artist that, if you wish, you can take the time to decipher fully, this is clearly and obviously a work that has been executed in exact accordance with its initial conceptualization. It’s fucking breathtaking across the board, and my hat is off to Laird for this, no exaggeration or hyperbole, monumental achievement.

Anyway, it would appear that whatever Burg Land was, it’s over with by this, the first issue, and it’s up to intrepid explorers such as our protagonist, one Baida Bandorious, to discover both what the hell happened and how the other half lives by means of hot air balloon expedition to parts far and wide. That’s all a tricky wicket in and of itself, of course, but when you consider than every city that remains on this used-to-be world is housed atop its own towering, lumbering, decidedly alien giant, well — that’s when the scope of the dilemma faced by those such as Baida, who would try to make sense of this entire scenario, comes into view. Each giant is entirely unlike the others in terms of appearance, and each city is entirely unlike the others in terms of culture, customs, and practices. Diversity abounds atop the remnants of Burg Land, then, but pluralistic multi-culturalism, well — not so much.

Okay, sure, we’ve got some allegorical “cautionary tale” stuff going on here, but Laird is in no way heavy-handed about it — the overall tone and temperament of his work is as light and deft as the even-weight line of his drawings and the delicacy of his rich color scheme. The aesthetic values of this comic are well and truly inseparable from its narrative values, which means of course that the inverse is also true. I yammer on at great length on this site about so-called auteur comics, well, this is the apex and perhaps even apotheosis of that term — it simply doesn’t get any more auteur than this, to the point that some new sort of designation, one that encompasses every aspect aspect of a comic’s production both creatively and technically, may be required. Don’t ask me what that would be, but as I hold this comic in my hands I am fully and keenly aware that it’s one of those things , like John Pham’s Epoxy, that take the idea of full artistic control from start to finish to unprecedented heights.

So, yeah, Laird is in some pretty select company as a cartoonist and, in the broader sense, as a creator, but at the end of the day what matters most is whether or not this project can stand on its own — and so far that not only seems to be the case, it seems to be the only possible way to envision this work even, well, being. That sounds grandiose as all get-go, I’ll be the first to admit, but apart from telling a story by means of sequentially-arranged art and text, this is not a comic that owes much of anything to what other people have done with this medium. Indeed, so singular is the rulebook that it’s playing by that Laird can literally stop the action halfway through to expound upon the history and geography of this fictitious world for 20-ish pages, all written in that complex cipher very few people will take the time to decode mentioned earlier, then jump right back into the main narrative without missing a beat. Don’t ask me how that works, because I have no real idea, but if I had to hazard a guess I would say such a deliberate flouting of the norms of traditional storytelling can only succeed when there is an iron-clad creative vision propelling the entire work forward. If there’s any slack in your act, a comic like this will expose it in a frigging heartbeat — there’s no slack in Laird’s act.
And to think — even though, okay, this world is over, this is only the beginning of this series. Where it goes from here is anybody’s guess, but I know it’ll be unlike anything we’ve experienced before because it already is. Chances to get in on the ground floor of projects that bear all the hallmarks of being once-in-a-lifetime artistic events don’t come along too often — you’d be a fool to pass on just such an opportunity here.

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Burg Land 1 – Sleemore Gank is available for $17.00 directly from Alexander Laird at https://sensitiveathletes.bigcartel.com/product/sleemor-gank-burg-land-1

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative indeed if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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