I first became aware of Michael DeForge's work sometime last year when Floating World got in a big stack of Lose #1. If I'm being honest, I didn't get it right away, but I was intrigued enough that I kept looking at the cartoonist's different books as they came in. My opinion quickly changed upon reading Lose #2 and then a few minicomics. With each successive release, Michael's work revealed itself more and more. He tells bitterly funny and achingly personal stories using a surreal framework. His cartooning has an organic morphability. From panel to panel, his images change, grow, metamorphose, leading the reader through a bizarre world that is utterly other-dimensional but never weird for its own sake.
One of his most recent releases, Spotting Deer, released through Koyama Press is a baffling comic book trinket. It's the explanation and study of a "terrestrial slug" that, for whatever evolutionary purpose, has adopted a form resembling a deer, antlers and all. The comic--printed in color and over-sized, like a 10" record--explains the scientific properties and life cycle of the creature, as well as its function in the environment and its cultural significance. It's a work at once straight-faced and impish, particularly as DeForge begins to fuss around with such an animal's place in techno culture.
There is also a riddle buried in the center of the book, a self-reflexive scene with the "author" that suggests that maybe there is a deeper metaphor here. Is the deer merely a chimera, a representation of lonely creativity, of the impossible and obsessive nature of invention? The tail-end "Bibliography" is not a list of books, but a semi-evisceration of the crazed creator. His work is merely a trash heap of ideas for the spotting deer to feed on.
Unsurprisingly, the art in Spotting Deer is spectacular. DeForge's coloring is of particular note. He uses bright rainbow hues and dot patterns to enhance the unsettling psychedelic-appearance of the drawngs, going to darker grays and blues when the material grows chillier. The effect is both enticing and overwhelming.
DeForge is definitely a creator to watch, and though Spotting Deer may be a strange introduction to his work, it's all strange, so really, just start grabbing his comics and go with it. His comics are likely to mean many different things to many different people--my interpretation will likely be way off base for some, and when I read Spotting Deer again, I may decide it means something else entirely--but that's the beauty of them. This isn't art that just goes one way, but, once consumed, it evolves beyond the static page, an ever-changing personal code of text and symbols developing its own cartoon mythology.
You can order direct from Koyama here.
This comic was provided by the Koyama Press for purposes of review.
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All text (c) 2011 Jamie S. Rich