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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/08/2006 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Insomnia 1"

Insomnia 1
By Matt Broersma
Fantagraphics Books
25 pp
Date published - 2005

Review by Leigh Anne Wilson

My husband often accuses me of being a sucker for marketing, and I have reluctantly come to believe this is true. Nothing else explains my secret desire - revealed on this web site for the very first time! - for a Hello, Kitty! toaster. So cute! So pink! Toast with little cat faces on them! Squeal!

Ahem.

Hey, you know what? Forget I said that.

Let me just say, for whatever reason, I find it delightful when something is as lovely on the inside as it is on the outside, and this applies very nicely to Matt Broersma’s Insomnia #1. The first in an ongoing series, Insomnia is one of the first releases from the Ignatz series, a collection of internationally produced comics that seek to bridge the divide between what most Americans think of as comics - the thin, mass-produced pamphlets á la Archie and Jughead - and the more critically accepted graphic novels such as Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus or David B’s Epileptic.

The result is beautiful. Insomnia is printed on thicker, higher quality paper, and at 8 ½“ x 11” is larger than comic book size, and has a fancy book jacket with a gorgeously moody illustration of a passenger train traveling over a bridge at night. Unlike a graphic novel, it is saddle-stitched and serialized. Even the price, 7.95, falls carefully in between comic pamphlet and book.

All that set things off on the right foot with me, and I was pleased to find that the world Broersma created inside that nifty dust jacket really knocked me out.

It opens with an introductory story, “Four Kings,” animated skeletons sitting at a table in what looks like a large supply closet, playing poker and swapping stories. The skeletons look very much like the corpses that are used during Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday, and the “Four Kings” story itself, with its creepy bon vivants gently celebrating the human joys of games and friendship, beautifully captured the spirit of this unique Indo-Hispanic holiday. It was a perfect open-ended introduction to the main story, “Eldorado,” which follows the story of Marco Clay, a bartender/con man living in Mexico to avoid arrest for a crime he committed in the United States. The storyline, as well as the dialogue, have a very 40’s noir-ish feel to them, and the two-toned illustrations in shades of cream and blue, assist with the hypnotic atmosphere.

Even though I'm a big fan of wordy comics, I found the stillness of “Eldorado” - pages 7 through 15 have very few panels with any dialogue at all - to be absolutely essential at capturing so many things; a long journey down American’s interstates through Texas and into Mexico, a rain storm, and the overarching loneliness of the protagonist were powerfully conveyed. Even his marital problems spoke volumes just through showing the reader an unanswered phone call.

There’s so much more in Insomnia #1 that I want to go on and on about. It really fit that little space inside my head that seemed to be reserved for loving things that blend surrealism, goth, film noir, and neat-o packaging. So far Insomnia #1 is the only thing in there. I hope soon I’ll be able to store Insomnia #2 there as well.

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