by Tin Can Forest (Pat Shewchuk and Marek Colek)
Pub: Koyama Press, 2012
Eastern European art has a particular lilt to it, doesn’t it? What I have in my hands is a giant comic book constructed primarily out of triangles. As angular as the figurative work is, Tin Can Forest have a subtle manner of rounding off those triangular forms to literally take the edge off of what is constructed as a harsh visual code. The softer corners and counterbalancing curved and swooped shapes give /Wax Cross/ a graphical freedom that most angular art lacks.
Balancing the straight line, inorganic angle with the curved path, rounded edge gives Tin Can Forest a vastly more diverse visual vocabulary than they would have if they had set down their pens after “let’s use simple geometric shapes.”
The first thing that /Wax Cross/ will call to readers’ minds is surely picture books. One can infer a certain appreciation for stained glass art as well, particularly in light of the heavy Christian mythology foundation of this comic. Of course the ideas of “picture book illustration” and “stained glass windows” aren’t mutually exclusive. Picture books have long absorbed influence from all aspects of visual culture. This is something that comics, by and large, are not accustomed to.
With that frame of mind, /Wax Cross/ has a very broad appeal when it comes to graphic art. This sort of art, along with its large-page presentation will bring the reader into a mood for discovery, much like in those picture books of the reader’s own youth. That said, the context of the comic’s storytelling might be much more esoteric than it appears.
Not being personally familiar with some of the cultural references or even too certain of the country of origin, much of /Wax Cross/ flew over my head. There are some meaningful passages about bees and some goats of ominous portent but as far as withdrawing a literal understanding of what happens in this book, I’m at something of a loss.
That can be a plus or a minus, depending on a reader’s mood and disposition. In some ways, the colorful storybook imagery puts one in the mindset of a young reader learning through picture books. In other ways, while relaxing the mind into a state of receiving information, one may find the book dense and requiring of more active searching than the graphic tone initially suggests.
Last Friday, I was walking through the park. As strolled up the path, what seemed like a gentle incline turned out to be a longer, steeper trek than I anticipated. By the end, I found that I was leaning into my steps more than I initially realized.
Reading /Wax Cross/ is like Friday’s walk: it looked easy enough and was accomplished easily enough but rather than a quick stroll, this book will ask the reader to put a bit more effort into it than initially assumed.