Morgan Pielli’s Pile of Minis 6/22/11

Today I’ll be looking at three books; two by up-and-comers Kristina Stipetic and Greg Vondruska and one by established pro Jordan Crane.

Yasha Lizard #2 by Krisha Stipetic

Yasha Lizard is about a frustrated and under-appreciated art student who becomes the unwitting participant in crime. Stipetic uses the differences in how animals perceive color as a pointed meditation on the question of “what is art.” The back and forth on that question is informed by Stipetic’s own scholastic experience. As one who has had his own love for cartooning chastised by many a college professor, I found the struggles of the protagonist to be very relatable. Putting aside my own bias, there is a great deal to like about this comic. The story is great, twisty fun, and includes a diverse and interesting cast of characters. The art is quite nice as well. The artist draws anthropomorphized animals in a way that is reminiscent of classic Disney character design. I also liked how she depicts the paintings that are the subject of the story; using fields of hatching to evoke the mysterious wavelengths of color that are beyond the appreciation of certain individuals. My one criticism is that some of her backgrounds look unfinished and hurried. But I have no doubt that, with practice, they too will be drawn with the same crisp confidence as her characters. Another shout out must go to Stipetic’s lettering, which is just top notch. Serious props there.

Yasha Lizard #2 is a great start to a larger story that is well worth getting in on the ground floor.

Worker Bee by Greg Vondruska

Worker Bee is a surreal narrative that takes place in a world somewhat removed from our own. Not quite science fiction, not quite entirely experimental, Vondruska’s comic ducks and weaves between art styles, storytelling approaches, and even protagonists. We start by following the titular worker bee into a strange complex populated by men in masks. From there we follow one such man, perhaps a worker

bee of another sort, as he is exiled into the world we know. The art style moves between thick, rough brushwork and fine hatching which, while visually very interesting, can make what is happening sometimes difficult to follow. This is compounded by a lack of context or explanation as to what the rules of this/these worlds are. It isn’t necessary to spell everything out, but in a story such as this it is important to have some sort of anchor that can help the reader understand what is at stake. Otherwise we are relegated to passively the watching events unfold as though through a window.

There are a lot of compelling ideas at play in this book, but the artist is doing himself a disservice by keeping the reader at arms length.

Uptight #4 by Jordan Crane

Jordan Crane’s book consists of the continuation of three different stories; Uptight, Trash Night, and Dark Day. Each is beautifully drawn and stylistically diverse. The first two deal with being trapped within one’s own head as a relationship reels out of control. Often in such a situation we are often unconsciously responsible, sabotaging the very relationship we flail to save. Such is the case in both of these stories, and Crane mines the emotional turmoil to create disturbing and genuine character studies.

The third story, Dark Day, is more whimsical (though darkly so). There is an evil principle who is trying to punish a student while a repairman navigates the labyrinth of pipes behind the freezer while a monstrous pair of eyes in a dark space threatens to eat a smaller pair of eyes. As these separate through lines converge we find ourselves in a twisted dream-like fairytale drawn in a richly-detailed, blackspot-free style that looks almost like a coloring-book. Childhood innocence is balanced against impending dread. Fantastic stuff.

There you have it folks! There fascinating reads from the pile! See you next week! -Morgan

Morgan Pielli’s latest comic, The Worry Tree, can be read on-line at

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