Friday, 15 May 2015

Quite a handfull: Prague race

I'm easily led by whimsy, noble failures and sweet-nothings. One of my favourite paper comics that never truly worked-out was Christy Lijewski's Next exit series because it had a dreamy inchoate undercurrent. It didn't really matter that there wasn't an over-arching Tolkieneseque approach to world-building because situations and characters just popped up.

If her more recent webcomic Samurai Host Club hasn't quite lived up to that initial hype then Prague Race is also able to tap into that well of slipstream wonderment that shows a world that initially looks like ours but slowly and slyly shows itself to be a darker and richer version of our humdrum lives.

The artwork certainly is a consistently seductive approach that emphasizes cross-hatches and shades of grey. It allows more contrast than one would expect: this almost malignant sleekness used to portray Gabrielle is effectively why I write about webcomics.

This innate blackness almost glistens like liquid on the screen in a way that would otherwise look fuzzy on paper. In later strips the background use of grey is astounding and it resembles the way that Lackadaisy uses a reduced palette to create a visual richness.

Overall it was the initial dollop of aimless fun that drew me into this strip but the narrative also tightens up as it goes along. The set-up is charming but also somewhat twee.

 If Between failures is one of the few slice of life strips that exists on my daily list it's because of its mixture of goopy heart and unnerving brains. I like twee, I like the Decemberists and Stefan Zweig,  so one should take that into account.      

Leona and her gang of restless twenty-somethings are just setting out at adulthood, not yet worn down by the compromises that neo-liberalism inevitably lashes you with. I appreciate the coy sweetness that this strip sets off with, it's certainly not the pissant forced zaniness that some webcomics trade in.

There's around a hundred pages of meandering scenes before it moves into more mature territory. I think that's about right. So if at the start the strip can appear to be needlessly jokily prolix there's still a purpose here. The gnomic strangeness behind everything asserts itself and leads the reader into what is a hidden and enjoyable darkness.

 That's a good mix for what looks like a long form narrative here aided with enough comic subtlety to break the ice. The slow build up allows a delicate pacing, even on the individual page there are silent pauses and subtlety that belies the craziness this strip eventually enters towards.

Musical accompaniment: Gerard Way, Hesitant Alien.. Emo grows up into Bowie-inflected attempt at glam. 

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