Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Pack Mentality #1: Arresting Visual Imagery, Colour & the Strength of Risography

Art by Dmitry Bondareko
I received a copy of Pack Mentality #1 over the holidays from my Brother-in-law with no explanation as to what it was. "You'll see when you open it" he said, "You won't be disappointed". It's been over a month now and I forgot how many hours I've spent with this comic. Pack Mentality is an anthology regrouping several artists contributing pieces of various length loosely related to the theme of "pack mentality". What we get in this comic are interesting stories, arresting visual imagery and a solid look at the wonders one can achieve with risography printing.
Art by Gillian Goerz
This anthology includes tales from Gillian Goerz, Dmitry Bondarenko, Alëna Skarina, Erin Rei, Tad Michalak, and some amazing illustrations by Hugh LangisJenn Liv, Nat Jenin & Sean Lewis. The stories are varied: we have a trigger-happy parking enforcement cop in Toronto; a botanist creating cabbage people; high-schoolers with dry skin problems; and an art band questioning their place in the art scene. In a way, they all explore the way we are influenced by our environment and think as a group. The cop we follow is a naive officer, but based on his thoughts, we can understand he's been influenced by what the media depicts as law enforcement. He believes it to be exciting, somewhat dangerous and honorable. He doesn't care that his job is that of a parking enforcement officer. He carries a gun and a badge; he has authority and he'll use it. The high school girl we follow is feeling isolated because of her problem and wants to hide it until she finds that others are experiencing the same problems. They form a community to help each other to get rid of their common problem. These are all explorations of how we act together without necessarily being coordinated ahead of time; we do things instinctively. 
Art by Alëna Skarina
I was very impressed by the comic by Alëna Skarina named Kidney beans (pictured above). It was an incredible throwback to 70's sci-fi comics with a nice modern sensibility. An astronaut lands on a planet to observe it's lifeforms as she herself is being spied on by its inhabitants. Her mission, however, is a violent one and she refuses to see it through. It's got a nice ecological, anti-violence message in there as well that was quite refreshing. It's use of color, though not extremely bold, was interesting for the contrast it presented with the other pieces in the issue. Black & white works very well for Skarina's style. Her lines are fluid and the white comes up in sharp contrast against the black ink. Her alien fauna and flora looks very nice too. 

While each of the artist`s styles vary greatly, what is most impressive is the use of color in their individual pieces. Erin Rei's piece on the cabbage people is exclusively blue and green, while Gillian Goerz`s piece on the high-schoolers is purple, blue and yellow. I particularly liked how the comic is interspersed with all these amazing risograph prints. Perhaps the most arresting piece of the issue is the whale hunting double page spread by Sean Lewis. It is dynamic and awe-inspiring. It manages to convey both the atrocities of killing a whale while capturing the fear and apprehension of the hunter. He manages to include the pack mentality as the whales are travelling together. The colors are otherworldly and Lewis captures the insanity of having these two beings come into contact with each other. I highly recommend that you follow this link (Sean Lewis Draws for Pack Mentality), not only will you see a larger image of the preview you'll see below, but you'll also see the process through which the colors are applied/printed on a risograph. Basically, riso printing is a print on unwaxed paper that is done one layer at a time and must pass through the risograph printer for each layer of colour your want to apply. This adds a level of difficulty in getting the results you want when using multiple colours. Lewis` piece is flawless and looks absolutely phenomenal. It's incredible. It was also an interesting comparison to another risographed comic I really liked, Hellberta by Michael Comeau in which he uses a single color with varying level of density. Here Lewis uses layer upon layer of colour to great effect.

A section of Sean Lewis's incredible piece

While I believe this illustration is worthy of a museum, I doubt it will ever be presented there. I'll just have to keep my copy of Pack mentality at home for now and share this mythic piece. I will however recommend that people take a look at that fantastic Jenn Liv contribution to the anthology. Now that is something I'd put up on a wall!

After all this time, I still don't know the genesis of this anthology. I'll keep my eyes peeled for a second issue ,though. If it's anything like this one, it should be a beautiful homage to risograph and contain a array of phenomenal artists.

Pack Mentality

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