Entropy Editions Round-Up : “Barrage” By Nicolas Nade

Entropy Editions is a new(-ish) publisher based here in the Twin Cities that appears to be casting a rather broad remit in terms of the sort of material they’re willing to roll the dice on — so far all their well-designed minis seem to fall vaguely under the rubric of what most would classify as “art comics,” specifically “art comics” with a formalist approach, but beyond that everything is up for grabs conceptually and thematically, and it’s not like these de facto categorizations preclude narrative from being involved in the proceedings to the extent a given cartoonist wishes for it to be. Sure, the format of the books themselves is rather uniform in terms of logo, cover design, and what have you — they’re even numbered! — but in strictly editorial terms these comics hew (a bit) closer to, say, a Mini Kus! than they do to a Ley Lines, which has an admittedly flexible, but still very much always-present-and-accounted-for, set of “guideposts” at its core. All of which means, I suppose, that we can look forward to never quite knowing what’s in store for us with one of these ‘zines, as the very name of the project implies.

I’d like to say we’re starting at the beginning with this overview of EE’s wares, but that wouldn’t be true : the line debuted in 2018 with Justin Skarhus’ Hand In Glove, but that sold out its limited run of 10 (yes, you read that correctly) copies quickly, and was unnumbered, so we’re going to start in 2020 with catalogue number EE01, French cartoonist Nicolas Nade’s abstract, wordless, and conceptually challenging Barrage, and in the days ahead review EE02, EE03, and EE04, as well. Sound good? Then let’s dive right in :

And honestly, there’s a lot to dive into with this 16-pager, an exploration of deliberately lifeless, austere, mechanized landscapes that can’t really be said to “go” anywhere — which is well and good since there’s no indication of where any of these sharply-delineated constructs “comes from,” either. Under normal circumstances logic would dictate that human hands built all of this — or built the machines that, in turn, built it? — at some point, but there’s a subtle and omnipresent timelessness to all of this that would indicate we’re looking at a quasi-permanent state of affairs in these drawings, a triumph of artifice that is unencumbered by either alpha or omega, the only concession to the organic being the brief appearance of something that could be slime, but could just as easily be engine grease.

Still, for all that, the round object we’re following does embark on a journey of sorts here, but the notion of it “progressing” is almost laughably quaint — it simply ends up somewhere other than where it started, and all indications are that it will continue on to somewhere else, in some form, after that. In a pinch it’s tempting to say that we’re observing a kind of mechanical reproductive cycle here, given some of the obvious visual parallels, but it’s also fair to say that a lot of it looks like a pinball-style game, too — which, come to think of it, Freud probably would’ve had field day with as well, so I dunno. I’ll leave all such speculation to more qualified minds than my own, I guess.

Still, I say without a moment’s hesitation that what matters more than anything when grappling with a project this obtuse by design in whether or not it gets you thinking, and on that score Nade clearly hits the mark. Steadfastly refusing to either celebrate or condemn the complete sublimation/subsumation of the biological in favor of an approach that, for lack of a better term, smacks of “straight reportage” may be frustrating — even alienating — to some readers, but chances are that even a quick glance at this comic would send that crowd scurrying more or less immediately anyway. This is art that is uncompromising on its face, and yet decidedly non-dictatorial in terms of both its methodology and messaging.
I’ll be blunt and state for the record that, while impressed with the delicacy and precision of this comic’s technical prowess, I’m still not sure how I “feel” about it — but I also think that a mixed or muted reaction is what Nade is seeking to engender in readers here. In a lifeless world, the only absolute is the absolute, and the human mind has forever been trying to come to grips with what exactly that is — as well as what it means.


Barrage is available for $5.00 from the Entropy Editions online shop at https://entropyeditions.bigcartel.com/product/barrage

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