For nigh on two years, I’ve had the supreme privilege of reviewing the excellent NOW series. Over five quarterly issues, the folks at Fantagraphics have delivered a powerful platform for new and exciting creators breaking all sorts of far-out artistic grounds. But like every long-term relationship, sometimes it’s essential to spice things up (and not like when your parents joined a “book club”). In that very pursuit, here’s volume 6 reviewed via the true medium of our times: GIFs. Sure, there’s still verbiage attached (I won’t insert the full blade into the soft underbelly of modern criticism!), but you’re encouraged to pay sole attention to the GIFs. Welcome!
Koak – “Jenny Goat”
As far as covers go, you can’t ever go wrong with “a female hybrid of The Toxic Avenger, Sloth, and Lennie Small goes to work on a goat farm.”
Theo Ellsworth – Untitled
A quintessential NOW piece: it’s hard to discern if you should weep for the cop, clap for the mutant bird duping him, or drop the book and run into the mountains.
Mariana Pita – “A Day”
Another hallmark of the series – something that punches you right in the jaw with its earnestness and otherworldly charm. In this instance, that something is akin to anime scribbled by a hypomanic tween.
M. Dean and C.J. Aguilera – “Bromeliads”
On the flip-side of pieces like “A Day,” “Bromeliads” – with its stark art style and overwrought dialogue – requires more work to crack the outer shell and expose that emotional nougat. Or just go read Evermore, what do I care?
Amandine Meyer – “Shivering Story”
This piece is the Limbo of indie comics – you want to believe it’s all sweet and unassuming, but you can’t shake the sense of dread in every frantic squiggle and bizarre new angle.
Aseyn – “Orbs”
In any other context, this hipster spin on an M. Night Shyamalan flick might actually work – it’s got a singular, alluring art style and the dialogue’s mostly convincing. That said, there’s no room for hokey vibes on the Cool Ship NOW.
Tim Lane – “B-Girl”
Sort of the same issues exist here as with “Orbs,” only the end result’s less emotionally impactful. On the upside, it made me want to re-read R. Crumb!
Jose Quintanar – “A Given Day On the Sofa”
If only the story came with a bag of Doritos, then it’d be the perfect encapsulation of couch potato-ing.
Veronika Muchitsch – “They Who Eat Alone”
With a whole ton of room for error, Muchitsch captures the oddity, isolation, and emotionality that accompanies most mukbang vids. You may swear off ramen for a hot minute, though.
Disa Wallander – Untitled
Have you ever had a child tell you a stupid knock-knock joke and you smiled anyway because A) societal obligation and also B) it genuinely caught you off-guard? That’s this sensation in comic form.
Julian Glander – “Museum Story”
Sometimes NOW shares comics utilizing 3D/digital art, which makes for a unique juxtaposition of cleanliness and seriousness with more silly, understated content. Instead, this piece just made me want a jumbo jawbreaker.
Jesse Reklaw – “Cat-a-Tonic”
The hands-down winner for most bizarre piece in the whole bunch, a psychedelic and cerebral shot to the lizard brain that’s more pure shock than “awww how neat.” Also, final proof dogs > cats.
Zohar Lazar – “Oof!”
A tale as old as time: a mutant tree man kills his best friend, a living excrement man, to appease his naked ghost love, only to be double-crossed. Makes me want to cry, but then that could also be the story’s subliminal messages melting my limbic system.
Steven Weissman – “The Bastard Princess”
Sometimes a perfect storm appears, a hurricane of pop culture references (internet speak and Adventure Time), beguiling art (like a storybook drawn by Thurop Van Orman while held hostage by Chucky), and a dash of darkness and cynicism. This issue’s true MVP: Most Valuable Princess.
Nick Thorburn – “Now”
Always good to end with a fart joke – leave ’em gas-ping for air.
In Conclusion: Volume 6 followed a pretty standard arc for the series as a whole: lots of strong contenders balanced with enough average pieces to make for something truly enjoyable. That said, there was some extra strong entries (“The Bastard Princess,” Disa Wallander’s untitled entry, “Oof!,” and “A Given Day On the Sofa”) to make this issue feel especially bright and shimmery. A collection de-emphasizing NOW‘s “patent” consistency, opting instead for a mixed bag approach that leaves ample space for single entries to work their truest magic. In that sense, the series continues to evolve without foregoing its core identity or lethal tastemaking sensibilities.
This volume earns 3.95 out 5 stars (that look like demonic babies).