13 February, 2012

Review: Digested.01

By Bobby Nenadovic.
Published by Gestalt Publishing.

I've tried to keep an eye on Bobby Nenadovic's work for a number of years now, but from what I can remember his published pieces before this had been pretty sporadic. That's why I was so pleased to hear that he was finally going to begin some serialised publishing — a commitment to getting stuff out there on some sort of a regular basis. Not that commitment is an issue when it comes to Nenadovic, as I believe he is a diligent creator and that he works quite hard on his comics. I think that's really paying off here.

This first issue of Digested is made up of three parts: the lead piece which will be a serialised, long-form story; two short, self-contained stories; and then a text piece which is a conversation between Nenadovic and Tom Bonnin, another Australian comics creator.

Nenadovic's art style is cartoony, and quite idiosyncratic. Although his cartoon style may seem broad, it's also quite calculated and finely presented. He obviously loves the black & white medium and really knows how to use his fine pen line, spotting of blacks and cross-hatching/grey-toning. The cartoon style, black & white art, conforming to a grid, and deft use of silent and/or repeated panels are all ingredients that Nenadovic knows how to employ for well paced, well told, quirky stories. Add to this the ability for his characters to do some wonderful acting, either in broad, cartoony sweeps or with more subtle and fine mannerisms, and the storytelling is very enjoyable and accomplished.

The presentation of Digested is very handsome. It's a square format floppy of 24 pages, with a colour cover, all professionally printed on quality, low-gloss paper. Nenadovic's ability as a graphic designer is evidenced in the design of the whole thing — it's nicely understated and straightforward, much like his cartooning and storytelling. It makes for a very smart package.

It's hard to comment on the story content of the opening pages, which are the beginning of the ongoing serialisation of "Oxygen", as there's almost nothing of it. Looks good, but the story could be absolutely anything at this stage.

The second section has two shorts, which are good, well told stories in themselves, but I'm not overly keen on the the whole genre of short autobio pieces that often leave a story feeling half finished. The first one here, an overheard conversation called "Train Ride", does finish with what I would call an ending, while the second short, "First Date" ends just at the point where the hinted mystery hits an interesting high. Sure it's a "Wha--?!?" kind of moment, but I really really want to see how that then is played out — how did the characters involved handle the revelation in the last panel and what are the consequences? If I were being told this story at the pub or over lunch I'd certainly be asking "So what did you do then?!? What happened next?!?" I simply feel like it's a story begun but not finished.

The final section of the issue is an interesting exchange via email between Nenadovic and comics creator Tom Bonin about their influences, practices and other thoughts about comics. Worth reading, to be sure, and a great addition to the book as a whole, but I'd rather be reading comics. (My last comment there is a little tongue-in-cheek obviously. I'm here for the comics Bobby!)

Probably the only disappointing thing about Digested #1 is that it's very short at 24 pages, and somewhat dissatisfying in that. It's a good thing that I'm dissatisfied with that because it means I was enjoying the work so much that I wanted more than the 15 pages of comics therein, but dissatisfied none-the-less. That's not to say that I feel ripped off, at only $2.95 it's certainly not too expensive for the quality that is on each and every page of art and production.

I was certainly looking forward to issue 2 and beyond at this stage, and I'm so glad several issues have materialised since this first. All of them are well worth buying, and that is most easily done through the Gestalt Publishing website. Get the whole series! http://www.gestaltcomics.com/store/digested/

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