Patreon Preview Week : “Future” By Tommi Musturi

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

Want more? Then please check out my Patreon site at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Four Color Apocalypse 2020 Year In Review : Top 10 Ongoing Series

Rolling right along with our end-of-year surveys, we come to 2020’s Top 10 Ongoing Series. Qualifiers in this category are serialized comics that saw more than one issue or volume released in the past 12 months. Not sure any further explanation beyond that is necessary? And so —

10. Psychodrama Illustrated By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics) – Beto’s latest side-step limited series focuses on somewhat surreal interpretations of the lives of Fritz and her family, resulting in a heady mix of the topical, the trippy and, of course, the libidinal. Familiar faces, unfamiliar places.

9. The Immortal Hulk By Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, et al. (Marvel) – The best “Big Two” series in ages showed no signs of slowing down in 2020, as Ewing interjected political issues and plenty of plot twists into his “long game” storyline, while Bennett continued to wow with richly-illustrated action sequences and uniformly inventive character designs. Where it’s all going no one knows but them, but where it’s already been has, to date, proven to be downright fantastic.

8. Vacuum Decay Edited By Harry Nordlinger (Self-Published) – Premier indie horror cartoonist Nordlinger is a guy with a vision, and in his new anthology series he invites others to the party to broaden it out, resulting in an intriguing blend of talents both old and new, all telling punchy, short-form tales of terror that delight in subverting conventions and norms without ever disrespecting them.

7. The Lighthouse In The City By Karl Christian Krumpholz (Self-Published) – Few cartoonists, if any, have made more productive use of their time in quarantine than Denver’s Krumpholz, who started this project looking to make diary comics about his wife’s then-upcoming surgery and her attendant recovery, and ended up documenting, for lack of a better tern, “The Full 2020 Experience.” As real and immediate as comics get.

6. Kids With Guns By Alex Nall (Self-Published) – What first began as a rather touching story about the inter-generational friendship between two neighbors has evolved into a taut but understated thriller of sorts that examines any number of pitfalls and challenges facing today’s youth with wit, wisdom, and grace. I can’t imagine Nall will have any trouble finding a publisher for the collected edition of this once all is said and done.

5. Love And Rockets By Gilbert And Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) – Another strong year for a series that seems to be experiencing a creative resurgence of sorts since returning to its original magazine format with Jaime, in particular, turning in some of the most compelling work of his illustrious career. For those of us of a certain age, these guys got us through our adolescence and our young adulthood, and they’re doing much the same now that we — and their characters — navigate middle age.

4. Now Edited By Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics) – A very nice bounce-back year for the increasingly-infrequent anthology, and who knows? Maybe that increasing infrequency is the key to its success. After padding his pages with substandard and reprinted material last year, editor Reynolds is once again commissioning almost entirely strong original work, and presenting it in a format — and at a price — that makes “art comics” accessible to the general reading public. One big blemish emerged at the end of the year in terms of his choices that calls his thinking, and perhaps even his judgment, into question, but this isn’t the place to go into all that.

3. Tinfoil Comix Edited By Floyd Tangeman (Dead Crow) – This one came out of left field this past year and hit me like a ton of bricks, as it represents the kind of thing so many of us are always looking for : a collection of unique and idiosyncratic strips largely done by cartoonists you’ve more than likely never heard of before. There’s a real underground sensibility at work here, a kind of “anything goes” philosophical approach that results in every page holding the promise of something new and unexpected — and usually delivering.

2. Ex. Mag Edited By Wren McDonald (Peow Studio) – A conceptually-innovative new deluxe anthology series with a rotating genre theme — Cyberpunk and Paranormal Romance anchoring the first and second volumes, respectively — has proven itself to be precisely the tonic world-weary readers have needed in this year unlike any other, and why not? This is a comic unlike any other, and with its “expiration date” built in from the start one gets the distinct sense of this being a work that is being carefully cultivated to both reflect the concerns of the here and now while also standing the test of time. “Where comics are going” is here now.

1. Future By Tommi Musturi (Boing Being) – Dazzling both in its array of styles and its top-flight production values, the planet’s most versatile cartoonist is here crafting a tapestry and a puzzle box at the same time, depicting diverse future worlds that are somehow all connected, somehow all real — and somehow, paradoxically, all self-aware of their own fictitiousness. It’s hard to say what we’re getting more of here, imagination or talent, but what’s certain is that both are combining to create something that bears all the hallmarks of being, I kid you not, one of the best comics of all time once everything is said and done.

Two lists down, four to go! I’ll be back with the Top 10 Special Mentions in the next day or two!

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

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 if you’d take a moment to give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse