It’s been a long time since I’ve found a truly awe-inspiring indie comic creator. Most of the CME Comics crew, as well as the entirety of Los Comix, would make that list, but the names are few and far between. Now I have to add Dave Baker and his cohorts to that short list of indies who truly deliver.
I would like to look at two titles I was able to get my hands on. The first one was Suicide Forest, written by Dave Baker and illustrated by Nicole Goux, and the second was Action Hospital, brought to you by a host of creators too numerous to list here. In keeping with this article’s theme, though, every small installment of this anthology had Dave Baker participating. So, let’s start!
Suicide Forest is a murder mystery of sorts, and at the risk of ruining some of the book’s thrills, I will nonetheless attempt to give you an overview.
The book employs splash pages exclusively, which, while questionable at first glance, is actually a brilliant way of building suspense. The story plays out frame-by-frame from a consistent angle, but the (sometimes significant) time gaps between pages invite the reader to fill them in. This makes the book a more interactive experience than your typical blow-by-blow narrative.
The other catch to this book–and it’s a big one–is that it has no text whatsoever. I am always fascinated when folks attempt to tell a story in this manner. I have felt, and still do, that many people in the game don’t know how to merge the visual art of a comic with its literary depth, much less tell a vibrant story through art. This title made that happen.
Suicide Forest is a great read. If I had the opportunity to offer the creators one suggestion, I would recommend they delve a little deeper into the subtle nuances a work of visual narrative can convey. The images should say more about the characters, the motivations of the villain, possible solutions as to why this family was targeted, and other such points.
The next title I picked up from Dave’s crew is one by the name of Action Hospital. It is a collection of shorts that meld together to create a universe.
So, one important question up-front is, ‘did I like the universe?’ Although this issue of the Action Hospital universe didn’t wow me, it definitely has the makings of a fun, engaging world. The problem, I feel, is that there was no arc that let me really get a feel for the universe. I enjoyed all of the stories. There was not one that I rolled my eyes at. They were all well-written and competently executed.
But as a whole the collection felt more like artists carving out their own unique corners of a world than a presentation of a coherent universe. That gave it an air of wackiness that worked against the title, it also left a lot open that shouldn’t have been. For instance, not many of the characters have origin stories. The beginning of the book depits a plant life species being wiped out. This seemingly important event (coming as it does at the “story”‘s very beginning) is never mentioned again. I didn’t enjoy that. The universe is also devoid of a backbone; who runs what, how they run it, and how the different characters relate to the world-as-it-is.
Despite all that, I really did enjoy every story andall the characters. As an expose on the universe it was perfect. I walked away from the title wanting more on just about every character. I wanted to know about their lives. How much they make, whether they’re behind on their rent or they’re wealthy folks, what they do with their downtime? My personal favorite was the Satanic Doctor saving the Pope. The text is heavily laden with smart stories along those zanier line.
Another point that should be touched on here is the diversity of characters. Many different lifestyles and cultures are represented in the title, making it an even more vibrant universe. The writing is clever, and the way the art is used makes it stand out just as much.
(Some of the smaller panels might not be doing it for you right now, but given the context of that short story it would have a deeper impact.) The page to the left is a clear depiction of how a love scene should look. Not a page full of panels that just show us what is occurring. In the page we see the forward motion of the scene, as well as the intense feeling that a layout like this creates. Though the artists at work in Action Hospital are many, they share this thoughtful approach to composition and character.
I highly recommend these titles, and anything bearing this team’s stamp. I think Dave Baker and his entourage are just getting started, so stay tuned and check out their website to see what tricks they pull out next.
As always thanks for reading. All hands on deck, and let’s keep this Black Ship of ours sailing.