Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis: Our Father’s Umbrella and Sequentulär!

Well, with New York Comic Con behind us, Convention Season officially comes to an end. Sort of. Kinda. To a degree. Of course there’s the odd con here and there over the next several months, but for the most part, the socializing and salemanshipping comes to a close.

Instead, let us look forward to the winter; AKA Comics Making Season!

Yes, it’s that time of year: when it’s too cold and snowy (even in October…grrr) to go out and do anything, so our attention turns to making comics. Soon hundreds more minis will come pouring into Forbidden Planet. So let’s not waist any more time and pull two more mini-comics off of the already gigantic pile.

Our Father’s Umbrella by Barry Rodges is a sweet, melancholy comic about three brothers who have lost their father. The siblings in question are a blank-faced biological son, a robot that the father constructed, and a snowman that the father made one winter. The otherwise-silly ensemble is treated here with care and humanity. When an argument over who gets their father’s only bequeathed possession; an umbrella, turns ugly, each character’s deepest insecurities bubble to the surface. I’m impressed with Rodges’ writing in this comic. While the art could use some work in the perspective and background departments, the characters themselves are rendered clearly and expressively. The panel layouts are also quite varied and creative without ever becoming too clever-by-half or unwieldy.

Our Father’s Umbrella is a sweet, charming mini that demonstrates smart writing and depth of character. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a website for Barry Rodges, so I guess you’ll have to buy his comic from us!

Of course, when Comics Making Season hits, the only thing I can think about is being ANYWHERE but on the East Coast. So it is with jealously deep in my heart that I picked up Sequentulär!, an anthology of work by Texas-based cartoonists. Sequentulär! is a collection of comics by members of the Austin Sketchgroup, and beyond that commonality, there doesn’t seem to be a unifying theme to this book. While themed-anthologies can sometimes be too niche or narrow in focus for the causal comics reader, having no theme keeps the book from standing out against the many other anthologies out there. This is something that Sequentulär! suffers from. On the one hand, I likely wouldn’t have come across the work of any of these cartoonists were it not for this anthology. On the other hand, where I not grabbing comics for this review, I don’t know that I would have picked it up to begin with. This is not a knock against the packaging (which features a very nice front cover by Sam Hurt, Geoff Sebesta, Zach Taylor, and back cover by Carey Atchison), or even the content therein. It’s simply that without a hook, un-themed anthologies are forced to survive on the reputations of the artists included. Unless you have some big names in there, it’s going to be a tougher sell than if you had a fun hook.

The comics in this collection are a bit hit-or-miss, a common problem with anthologies in general. “Dark Muse” by Carey Atchison, sets up an interesting idea (a third-rate cartoonist whose book creates dark thoughts in those that read it, eventually manifesting itself as a carnivorous insect that bursts from the head of the author) but doesn’t allow itself enough space to fully explore.

“A Minor Threat” by Geoff Sebesta (with John David Brown), on the other hand, takes its time building up the story, ultimately creating a satisfying and well-paced modern day fairytale.

“Eyebeam” by Sam Hurt feels the most out place. It’s a well drawn series of comic strips that seems better suited for the web than for print.

“An Unfortunate Karma” by John David Brown is my favorite comic of the collection. It has a distinct S.R. Bissette influence and features a hilarious Epilogue on the inside back cover.

“Shing!” by A. Litsa also seems a little out of place, though not so much so as “Eyebeam.” “Shing!” departs from the other comics by not featuring insects in some capacity. It is, however, a very well drawn pantomime comic about a misunderstanding between a young woman and an older lady.

Finally, “We Need a New Zeus” by Zach Taylor is perhaps the most abstract comic in the collection. It’s about an ailing Zeus infected with tiny Ghost Boy Riders and it feels more like a prologue to a larger story. It is an odd choice to close the anthology (excepting the Epilogue comic “An Unfortunate Karma”).

So in conclusion, there are some good comics in this collection, and if they were their own mini-comics, (and fleshed out, in some cases) I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. But as an anthology, this is a tough sell. I’d recommend looking through the comics on the Austin Sketchgroup’s website before deciding weather or not to take the plunge (http://austinsketchgroup.org).

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Look for more from Morgan Pielli online at IndestructibleUniverse.com and follow him on Twitter at @UltraMorgnus

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