Time for Another Graphic Novadose of That Kramer’s Ergot
Sammy Harkham’s new anthology is one long & strange & stunning trip
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:35PM, Wed. May 25, 2016
You’ve done drugs, right?
Not just alcohol, c’mon, alcohol only makes you stupid.
I mean, you’ve at least smoked weed, right? Maybe done ecstasy or ‘shrooms or, ah, what was Jim Morrison’s thing? Tarantula venom?
And maybe you’ve especially dropped a lot of acid?
Because that would help with this review of Kramer’s Ergot #9, Sammy Harkham’s latest anthology of comics (or comix or, you know, sequential art) from Fantagraphics.
Because that would make it easier for me to communicate the effects that the volume’s beautifully produced, 288 full-color pages replicate in a human mind.
Not like when some dullard says of an artist, “Hyuk, what an imagination, that girl must be on DRUGS!” as if anything beyond the mundane were perforce a result of chemical enhancement. No, I mean that what the contributors to this latest edition of Kramer’s have provided is tantamount to dosing you with some righteously powerful shit.
Okay, not all of the anthology is like that.
The excerpt from Gabrielle Bell’s “Windows” is a gorgeously rendered narrative without being at all mind-warping. The section sampled from Dash Shaw’s Civil War-era “Discipline” is, oddly and pleasingly, more evocatively straightforward than much of his previous work. Trevor Alixopulos’ “Close Enough” is a good ol’ well-drawn ramble through the typical social scenery of young drinking-and-fucking adulthood. And those self-portrait-with-cat paintings of Jerry Moriarty are masterpieces of one man’s personal stake in the starkly quotidian.
[Which just goes to show how diverse this collection is. Which, in case you need the reminder, is true for the previous incarnations of Kramer’s Ergot as well.]
But, yeah, there’s also a lot in #9 that will make you think you shouldn’t’ve chased a love-boat blunt with that acid emblazoned with the purple paisley silhouette of Prince.
Not that that’s a bad thing – not at all, brothers and sisters, that’s some of what we hope to experience while reading comics. But when it comes to storyline or subject treatment? Or the pure visuals of image-rendering and panel-arranging, or the lack of panels or organizational grid or anything other than what seems most graphically expedient? Then the likes of Adam Buttrick’s “Policework” and Lale Westvind’s “The Kanibul Ball” and Patrick Kyle’s “Portal” and the “Comics and Gags” of Abraham Diaz and more will definitely leave your head spinning at a certain atypical number of RPM. You know what I mean, spinning? Kind of, like … spinning?
Also? Michael DeForge, Kim Deitch, Al Columbia, Julia Gfrörer, Archer Prewitt, and more.
[Ye gods, what an array of urgent and/or considered mark-making between those John Pham-illustrated covers!]
Recommended: Score a copy for yourself while they’re still legal.