Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Snapshot thoughts: 'You & A Bike & A Road' by Eleanor Davis

So, today I have an hour to tell you my thoughts on Eleanor Davis' You & A Bike & A Road.' Here's what I want you to know:

1) This book is about a solo bike journey Davis undertook from her parents home in Tuscon, Arizona to her own home in Athens, Georgia in 2016. There are a slew of reasons for setting out on the bike trip: it's something she wants to do, and she and her husband have been thinking of starting a family soon so now seems like an opportune time, but also her mental health is at a low ebb and the bike provides a release of sorts. On the bike she feels okay.

2) I read this while in hospital, lying down on a sofa in my dressing gown whiling away the 7-hour pre-surgery wait time. I once said on a panel that my mood affects how I experience a book (which I think people found a bit odd) but it's something I stand by. It makes sense that where you're at -mentally and physically- has on impact on the way you interact with things. Hospitals are one of those liminal, strange places where reality seems thinner, and that, combined with my nerves and apprehension made me open to the book in a specific way. Particularly as much of it is about the limits of the body; the tension between the mind and matter. Yet I found it affirming. I was comforted in sharing the experiences of someone else who was struggling. 

3) Davis' cartooning is incredibly good. Writing about her previously, I've called it 'natural' 'organic' 'flowing.' Fundamentally, it comes across as effortless. I don't mean that there isn't work involved, but even here, where you can see rubbings and drawn over lines (Davis created these comics on the go), it seems seamless in how it's put together.  There's an ease to it. It's as if she thinks in cartoon form and then that's what comes out of her pen. Some people speak a language more fluently than others. Davis is at the level where she's so good you can't tell if it's her native tongue. What I am most impressed by is her ability to succinctly convey exactly what she wants. Nothing extra. What she wants to say, what she wants to show you, is there on the page. I envy that coherence. To be able to not only express yourself, but to do so whilst being engaging, intelligent, and thoughtful is special.

4) I relate to the notion of motion keeping your monsters at bay. Move, move, move, and they can't getcha. Doing requires all your focus.

5) I like the full-page crowd scenes a lot. The smudgy closeness of a pencil is the best at bringing the reader into an image. The bustling way in which Davis fills a page is deeply appealing. There's a real geniality to this book, to the cartooning; to Davis' voice and her questioning. 

6) One of the aspects that resonated deeply with me was the idea of failure, or giving up. We're taught to continue, to persevere. Seeing things through as a test -and testament- of character. No matter if it's at's the expense of your health. No matter the strain or toll. When something is at the point of causing you greater harm than it is benefit, it is okay to stop. It is okay to stop for as little a reason because you want to stop. Davis does not complete her bike journey: her knees, fragile and flaring up throughout, can't take anymore. She doesn't want to cause her body damage for the sake of completing an arbitrary goal, instead choosing to reflect on all she has achieved, on what she's gained. 

7) At various points in her journey, Davis is helped by complete strangers who allow her to stay at their home -sometimes for days on end- help fix her bike, give her advice, words of encouragement. 'Meet some strangers. Get to know them and they get to know you. Now they are your people.' I'm struck by this. These parts of the story are what seem most fictional to me. I know, as brown, visibly Muslim woman, navigating life in a 'western' country, this could never be my experience. I am struck by how something as simple as a bike trek can offer 2 human beings such varying possibilities. Weird to consider that the best of what people have to offer is closed off to you by their worst. What it would be like to move through the world free of larger preconceptions and prejudice.

8) This book was one of the best things I've read this year.

*This piece was originally written for my August 1-hour writing challenge on Patreon

Friday, 25 August 2017

Let's talk about book spine design!

Good morning! Today I want to briefly discuss some examples of good and poor book design, specifically focusing on book spines.

Book spines! Book spines are important because they do the job of a cover where a cover isn't visible. All books can't be placed face up. There's simply not enough space. And so it falls to the book spine to represent the book, to give it individuality amongst a sea of others on a bookshelf. At its most basic its function is to stand out, to catch the eye. A good book spine should give the reader some inclination as to the character of the book. A spine is potentially the first and only part of a book a reader will encounter.

We can say covers and spines do not matter as much when foreknowledge is present. You've read about a book, your favourite author has a new release, you've been recommended a title by your friend - you know what you want. But when I go into a bookshop I'm not there solely to pick up what I'm already aware of, but to discover new things. That involves browsing, looking at covers, reading blurbs, flicking through to see interior art. In comics, there is vast potential for spines; with pages and pages of art to help illustrate them, images ready to snipped and grabbed, ready-made colour schemes to draw from, all of which can be used to put together a sharp, attractive spine. But spine design (and book design in general) remains a vastly neglected area in comics. Part of this is due to a push-back mentality against 'selling.' The idea that the work should magically stand for (and sell) itself. That marketing and packaging is a gimmick to which one shouldn't lower themselves. Personally, I think it's a disservice to your work if you don't give every aspect of it equal care and consideration. Some of it is also laziness, and some of it is, as ever, down to financial constraints. Perhaps, too, book design has become somewhat of a neglected area as online and digital sales have flourished and print floundered. I understand, yes, but also these are excuses.

Anyway, let's cast about my shelves and discuss some good and bad examples of spine design.

I love how cohesive and punchy these Parasyte spines are. There's a lot of elements at work here and yet the spine doesn't look busy or overly crammed, largely thanks to the black which both breaks up the coloured facets and grounds the whole spine. Let's breakdown the 4 main features that make this such an excellent spine:
  1. the title itself- or the font: it's unique, not simply a standard typeface but one created to tie in with what the book is about. The uneven letters and scratchy bits give it a visual interest of its own.
  2. the colours: the full set of books looks impressive, but each volume has it's own vibrant shade. They are not dull. What's interesting about the  Parasyte spine is that it has clear sections, blocked against the black background, the contrast of which makes the colours pop more.
  3. layout/design/spacing: this is the 'sectioning' I was referring to. There's the half oblong on top, the image, the title, vol number, author name, and a second half-oblong containing the publisher logo. All are balanced beautifully. That's a lot of information but it's clearly laid out in a way that looks good and also tells the reader something about the feel of this book.
  4. the image: Parasyte contains some incredibly strong, arresting art, and it seems common sense to put some of that on the spine. The weirdness of Hitoshi Iwaaki's drawings are a benefit, using the visceral liet motif of eyes to great effect. A head bulging with numerous eyes; eyes peering out from an outstretched hand; a misshapen, looping face that is all eyeball. How can you not be drawn to it?
A mention for Gon here, which has a solid, effective spine format. The earthy colour scheme fits in with the natural/prehistoric theme. The 'O' in the tile is neatly punctuated with Gon's footprint, the kind of small detail that makes a difference. Lastly, the colour images pull the whole thing together. Although this is a more 'open' design than the Parasyte spines, you can see there's still a clear approach to layout, which is stuck to throughout: publisher logo, image excerpt, title, volume number, author name.

Many manga often have the lead character/s feature on the spine, from floating heads, upper body shots to full body drawings.  These Cross Game spines utilise colour nicely, with the lively green/orange theme played out not only across the whole set but on each book. Again, the title is stylised and includes a four-leaf clover, and Mitsuru Adachi's superb illustrations decorate the bottom. Cross Game is very much a character piece and that's something you can quickly glean from looking at these people. The illustrations here are doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

This Azumanga Daioh omnibus is one of my absolute favourites. The cover is a wraparound, with the cast of characters walking along together from back cover to spine to front cover. Placement is key, so that it's spread in a way that those 3 still work if viewed separately. The spine gives you a full look at 2 of the characters, both with differing expressions. If we're talking about what we can tell from a spine, here we can tell this is about school girls (the uniform) contrasting personalities, and friendship. I love, too, that the title is placed in a little 'speech' balloon at the top. It's not a big balloon, but being at the top (and being the only text) helps.

Yotsuba's spines are good because of Youstuba! She's there on every one. A small, but complete presence, always engaged in some activity or mood which is relayed to the reader. I like how cleverly the exclamation mark (Yotusba's full title is 'Yotsuba & !') is incorporated into the title design here, with the volume number in the dot, and how Kiyohiko Azuma's name is similarly bubbled off. Bubbling can make busier spines appear less so. The whole spine here is very clean, more so with the green and maroon juxtaposed against the white background.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Fish Girl: presenting clarity in narratives of abuse

David Weisner's and Donna Jo Napoli's Fish Girl is a book that took me by surprise recently. I bought it as a fan of Weisner's excellent picture books, excited by the prospect of him working on a longer-length comic. What I knew of it was gleaned from the publishers' brief synopsis: a young mermaid in a seaside attraction befriends a human girl and longs to have the same freedom. Yet Fish Girl is a much sharper, more thoughtful book than that blurb would have you believe. It is a story of abuse, power dynamics, and control.

Kept in a seaside house of attractions, Fish Girl looks up to and loves the man she knows as 'Neptune'. The whole house is rigged up as a gigantic aquarium and it's Fish Girl's job to swim around amongst the other creatures and foliage providing the paying visitors only enough glimpses so as to keep her existence both viable and contentious. Neptune puts on shows for his customers in which he regales them with tales of the sea, as water rises and moves at the behest of his sceptre. He refers to the house as his kingdom and Fish Girl as his treasure. Making herself known to anyone would put her in great danger, warns Neptune, leading to experiments, dissection, and worst of all- separation. Fish Girl believes him. She believes him to be king.

What I appreciated most about the book was its clarity. It doesn't mince language or themes, a facet that's doubly important when taking into consideration the young audience this is aimed at. It's not an allegory but a straightforward presentation of an abusive relationship. Using the lens of a mermaid who sheds the constrictive identity (quite literally 'special' by being a fantastical creature) placed upon her, who breaks free from her scales, growing legs and learning to walk and stand doesn't water down that portrayal. The man who calls himself Neptune sees Fish Girl as his property, something he owns, 'You are mine. My treasure. I'm the one who cares for you.' He simultaneously demeans and diminishes her: 'they'll [other people] be repulsed by you,' and then frames himself as the good guy, the sole person willing to care, the only one who sees how special she is, 'you're nothing like them.' Through controlling how she feels about herself, he controls her. He manipulates her emotions, peddling a you-and-me-against-the-world-narrative 'we belong together,' telling her her survival depends on him. Why wouldn't Fish Girl, who has been with him since she was a baby, who doesn't even know what 'the world' looks like, has known nothing beyond the walls of the aquarium, trust him?

But one day, a human girl catches Fish Girl unaware as she's lost in thought and talks to her. Although Fish Girl is voiceless, the two are able to communicate and strike up a secret friendship that leads her to question much of what she thought to be true. This girl, the first human she's interacted with besides Neptune and she is perfectly nice. If he was lying about the nature of people, what else was he lying about? She begins to become aware of the physical and mental confines in which she's caged: 'My air. My food. He controls my world.' 'When he's happy, he leaves me alone.' She determines to learn more. Napoli and Weisner remain firmly, remarkably rooted throughout: even when Fish Girl makes her way into the human world one night, she is not safe from the exploitative overtures of men. The ultimate line is that she have the freedom and agency to choose how she wants to live, what she wants to do, and who she wants to be. That she be in control of herself.

Weisner's art tends to have this rather static quality to it that serves the generally surreal direction of his work well. The distilling of movement forces you to spend time looking. Here, it's a steady, unwavering hand giving the reader an unblinking lucidity, the tone of which never gets frantic. It works well, too, in a sense of containment, of slow introspection the pace of which he's able to dictate via panelling choices as the story crescendos and concludes. 

*This piece was originally written for my August 1-hour writing challenge on Patreon

Monday, 21 August 2017

10,000 Years In Hell: Tillieux's ode to joy

A quiet Sunday afternoon at the Akhtar household yesterday, with me reading Maurice Tillieux's 10,000 Years in Hell on one sofa, while my nephews (respective ages 7 and 5) watched Planet Hulk on another. A notable day if only for it being the occasion on which they became aware of the existence of Beta Ray Bill. 'Beta. Ray. Bill.' breathed the older one as if familiarising himself with a rosary prayer. But there was no less excitement on the other end of the room. I've been waiting for this book to come out for a long time and it was worth the wait. You know when something is so good you sit there squirming in delight, revelling in each moment? Your shoulders go up, your neck goes in, sometimes there's little indiscernible noises of pleasure. There was definite twitching.

Part of that appreciation is cognitive: things you're exposed to, and enjoy, during formative periods in your life have a long-lasting impact on the evolution of your taste. I loved detective/adventure/mystery stories when I was a kid: Tintin, The Hardy Boys, The Famous Five, etc., and crime remains the fulcrum of my prose reading today. I'm pretty sure my preferences of certain shades can be traced back to Herge's colour palette. I'd like to think I'd be as open to ligne claire and atomic style bande dessinees if I hadn't read Tintin and Asterix but who knows. Art is a language and parsing what you're not used to can be a difficult process.

Tillieux's Gil Jordan often gets tagged with the 'grown up Tintin' label, but Tintin -age *14* lest we forget, owner of an impenetrable skull, piloter of planes, boats, and submarines, master of firearms- is obviously a superhero. The similarities lie in the sharing of (apparent) genre, the fact that both our heroes are ginger, and superficial allusions to the 'look' of the art/ However, Tillieux's 'atomic' style is an advancement of Herge's more classic clear lines. There's more brushwork, more texture. Lines are allowed to be looser, sketchier. Shapes have body. It has sinew, it's alive.

Straightaway, on page 1, there's a mysterious letter complete with secret coding device (known only to the recipient) used to uncover a hidden message. Page 1! I get such a kick out of these things.

There are 2 stories in this volume: 10,000 Years In Hell, about an inventor who gets kidnapped by the government of a small South American country for his weapon designs, and Boom and Bust which sees a retired colonel as the target of an increasingly threatening letter campaign. On the one hand, Tillieux's stories are straightforward with little twists or surprises. But narrative is more than plot. Narrative is everything. In comics, narrative is lines, layout, expressions, colours, ideas, scenes, emotions- everything that has the ability to convey something. And make no mistake, Tillieux is a master of all these.

Take the above scene. It could easily be a few panels of Tony in the booth talking on the phone, possibly interspersed with panels of the person on the other end. Instead Tillieux gives us that much more: a panel of the bar, the arcade game, men drinking, building atmosphere. And in choosing to stay on Tony, he adds tiny bits of characterisation: Tony's free hand does 3 different things in this sequence, neatly folding itself in a pocket, smoking a cigarette, and doodling a gun while chatting.

Here's another simple yet effective device. A regular-sized panel shows Gil and Crackerjack hitting the road. Next to it, Tillieux places 4 small, split panels of town signs, equal to the size of the first, to show the progression of their journey. This literally drives the action forward, allowing him to move both his characters physically from place to place and also move on to the next bit in the story.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Shiva: to protect or destroy?

Siuil, a Run: The Girl from the Other Side by Nagabe [Seven Seas]
Shiva is a young girl living in an abandoned, woodland village in this opening volume of Nagabe's masterfully paced folk-fantasy. Her sole companion is a tall, black, meticulously-dressed creature, whom she addresses as 'teacher,' and who serves as Shiva's guardian. Semi-humanoid in shape, with a head that is a cross between bird and ram, a beak that is not a beak; long, curling elegant horns, fur, and a tail, Teacher and Shiva are close (despite their coming together indicated to have been a fairly recent turn of events), each unperturbed by the other. Due to unspecified reasons, the two are forbidden to touch. Shiva appears unaware of much, apart from that used to have an aunt, whose fate is unclear, and whose return she eagerly awaits although Teacher knows such a turn of events is unlikely...

More is learnt of this curious situation via Teacher's thoughts, and the conversations of a group of soldiers patrolling the woods. It seems a curse or disease of some kind has ravaged the land. Areas have been divided into safe and no-go zones: the inside and the outside. The curse changes people, a physical transformation, and those changed become 'outsiders' who are hunted down and killed -purportedly to stop the spread of the disease. Fear rules rampant as soldiers slaughter anyone even suspected of carrying the curse. This, then, is why the village is empty. Those who are not dead have fled. Yet these nuggets of information are slippery, one-sided, and not expansive enough to provide answers. How did the curse come about? If Shiva is a carrier, why does Teacher -an apparent outsider- strictly enforce the 'no contact' rule? What kind of powers do the outsiders have? Who are they? Can they truly transform others by a simple touch? What is it the king and his soldiers are really afraid of? These questions aren't frustrating, but a result of Nagabe successfully siphoning story to sow intrigue and investment.

While the odd-couple pairing of the inky, imposing, nightmare-fodder figure and young, innocent child may be what catches the superficial eye, Nagabe demonstrates a deft touch in characterisation, rooting it in activity, situation, and the interpersonal. We spend time with Shiva and Teacher both separately and together, becoming familiar with each as individuals, and of their relationship. With no physical contact allowed, Nagabe shows the two's closeness via gestures, actions: Shiva making a crown of flowers for Teacher and placing it carefully on their head. Holding either side of an old umbrella for support when Shiva is hurt, Teacher unable to carry her. There's a quiet, gentle ambience enhanced by the woodland setting, and the isolation of the characters, although this sense of tranquility seems false, destined to not last. Nagabe's fine lines amplify that feeling, treading delicate, sharp, ominous. Sparser pages give way to sudden fuller, detailed backgrounds with brushier inks, at times an uneven note in the book, possibly borne from the constraints of serialisation, but also offering a heightened contrast, specifically in employing blank space as a conduit for drama and tension.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of Siuil is this conveyance of comics as language, of words and pictures as unified text. Take, for example, the 3 pages below. Nagabe splits the pages into 2 large panels to slow down time, and to emphasise the pivotal nature of what we're seeing: both the soldier drawing the arrow, lining it up, and Shiva's reaction. The panels are sparse with no background- full focus is on the figures. The additional texture on the arrowhead from an angle where it's in the reader's face makes it all the more real, more dramatic.

Panels and sequences are utilised like this thoroughly: a splash page filled with the close-up of a single, shocked eye and the catalytic reflected image. A tight, close-up in which Teacher's hand clutches silently at grass and flowers in pain, followed by a 3-panel sequence of Shiva reaching out a comforting hand, hesitating, and then drawing back. A split-panel of Teacher's head indicates a momentary 'in two minds' indecision over whether to tell Shiva the truth about her auntie. Shadows of soldiers helmets fall so that their eyes are rarely visible, indicating a blind following and a lack of humanity. Even something such as size difference is used to communicate narrative, Nagabe contrasting the safe, comfortable interactions of Shiva and Teacher's (crouching, reaching with a stool) with the looming, elongated body language of the soldiers from the perspective of a fallen Shiva as they tower over her. 

It's been a while since I loved a book as unequivocally as I loved The Girl from the Other Side, and I'm eager to see where it goes next.

*This piece was originally written for my August 1-hour writing challenge on Patreon

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Drawing All-Might

I started watching the My Hero Academia anime, swayed by the impassioned behest of my friend, Jamila. To cut a long story short (and brevity is one of the aims of this writing exercise), after a slow couple of opening episodes, I was hooked and whistled my way through the rest of the 2 series. I liked it a lot. Enough that the lure of pages from the comic from which it's adapted floating across my virtual path proved too strong to resist. What I want to discuss a little today is an aspect of that comic, namely the manner in which Kohei Horikoshi draws one of his main characters, All-Might, the number 1 superhero in the world. The following observations and analysis are based upon reading books 1 and 2 of the manga.

Here's All-MIght in hero form (sans costume):

And here's All-Might in regular form:

A side-by-side look at the transition:

When he's in hero form, All Might is depicted almost as a caricature of a typical superhero. Kohei Horikoshi's lines become thicker, bolder. Increased, heavier texture and hatching are used to render his bulging physique. That exaggeration makes his presence undeniable. He's *there.* There's no missing him. Part of this stylistic choice is in keeping with the inherent humour of My Hero Academia but on a base level, it works simply to distinguish him from everyone else. In a world in which 80% of the population has some sort of special power, and superheroes are a norm, there has to be something immediately distinguishable about the number 1 hero. Bestowing All-Might with a unique, specific drawing style sets him apart from the pack.

What does it mean that All-Might is cartoony even in a cartoon? Why choose to portray him as superficially outrageous and ridiculous? What Kohei Horikoshi intends to do is subvert the glamour and cool traditionally associated with superheroes. He's a throwback ('who's this weird, cheerful old dude?' is the feedback Horikoshi says he got from his manga friends). The extreme cartoonishness reminds the reader that they're seeing a deliberate image, that the projected one-dimensionality isn't the only truth. It's a reflection of how All-Might is  viewed, and who/what he has to be as a hero. All-Might is as much a construction as he is real, a persona who exists via the ideas and expectations of others. He's shiny, larger than life, indefatigable, with the widest of never-wavering, rictus grins. So much of All Might -as with most public figures- is the meaning people ascribe to him, what they perceive him to be. The symbol of peace. This is something All Might is deeply aware of and what he strives to be: 'The reason I smile is to stave off the overwhelming pressure and fear I feel.' Comfort is derived in him visibly not being one of us: he is more. 

Drawing him in this overt, pronounced style is a shorthand for conveying those ideas of a silver-age facsimile, an earnest pastiche, whilst underlining his significance. He may be corny, his costume may be outdated; his hair downright strange, but his sincerity and purpose are what make him. The distinction isn't purely physical but extends to his values.

The other main function of this stylistic device is juxtaposition. It highlights instantly the difference between All-Might's 'normal' form and his hero form. We see how All-Might is able to become something more, but we also see the limitations and confines of it. Superheroes still generally tend to be aspirational even in their regular personas, still muscle-bound, still attractive, just a tad more obscured. With All-Might this isn't the case. He's not good-looking, he's gaunt, his clothes hang off him, his hair is limp and bedraggled. It's only his eyes that hint at depth and gravitas. When in his hero form, All-Might's eyes are never visible under his jutting brow and humongous eyebrows but in regular form, All-Might's eyes are his most impressive feature: burning pinpricks that give an indication of his personality and convictions. Yet there is no escaping the sense of dying lights...

Which brings us, finally, to death. Much of the story, and this presentation, seems geared towards All-Might's death. From the very first time we meet him he's hacking up copious amounts of blood, a by-product of a battle-wound that's only getting worse. And I think this is another facet to Horikoshi's depiction: All-Might is a discrepancy within these pages. He is not an object of permanence. What Horishoki is giving us is a journey from man to godliness -note the connotations of the 'all mighty', his power 'one-for-all'(as much an accumulated spiritual network that provides 'strength') - to transcendence. All-Might will pass on, and the more indelible an impression he leaves, the greater the impact of his loss and the absence of that most vibrant, full of pomp figure. 

*This piece was originally written for my August 1-hour writing challenge on Patreon

Monday, 14 August 2017

Delicious in Dungeon: the things we put in our mouth

I had a lot of fun reading Ryoko Kui's Delicious in Dungeon recently. I've been eyeing it since Yen Press announced they'd be translating it, and then eyeing it some more after it released in May. My interest stemmed from the enthusiasm of friends who'd read it in Japanese (or, um, scanlations) but the concept was what made me dither: in a vast underground dungeon world, a group of adventurers run out of provisions and money. Instead of choosing to go back, they decide to forge ahead by making the creatures and monsters of the dungeon their food -a practice that isn't common and largely viewed with scepticism and disgust.

A quick explanation/justification of dungeon eating:

It's quite a (deliberately) silly idea, and I had qualms about how it'd be approached and executed, or the extent to which the whole book may be rpg game-related (i.e. too heavily referential for me to understand). Having read it, I'm starting to think Ryoko Kui is a genius. She sticks to a tight group of characters to whom she can devote time and flesh out a little: there's Laios, the leader/organiser whose sister the team have ostensibly set out to rescue, but who seems much more interested in eating dungeon critters, to the degree of fetishism... Marcille, the elf, who specialises in casting spells and magic, a reasonable being cast asunder by the sudden eagerness of those around her to start putting any manner of moving things in their mouth. Lastly, there's Chilchuk, a feet-on-the-ground sort of fellow who's an expert in disabling traps and locks, and Senshi, a dwarf the trio meet on the way who happens to be a dungeon cooking pioneer/outcast. The personalities and interactions between the four are what ground the work, with the mesh of the story where the group travel, chat and encounter obstacles handled like any other adventure comic.

The trick to dealing with a silly or ridiculous idea is to treat it as rote. There's got to be an element of conviction. So when it comes to the food, we get step-by step walk-throughs on how to cook a half-chicken half-snake basilisk, a diagram on the anatomy of slime (a bit like jellyfish), instructions on which mandrake limbs should be cooked which way. The general pitch of Delicious in Dungeon is comedic, and it is genuinely funny, but when it comes to the food Ryoko Kui gets serious. You end up believing that a colony of mollusks can grow an outer shell that looks like living armour, and that's quite a mean feat. Extreme/exotic eating has never held any fascination for me, yet there's something about the methodical nature of cooking combined with the creativity of dreamed-up creatures that's rather engrossing.

As you can see from the dragon picture heading this piece, Ryoko Kui can draw *pretty* well. Which always helps. I love when cartoonists can switch between a beautifully, thoroughly textured image to looser, simple line drawings. It's not only visually engrossing for the reader, but it offers more variety, in being able to switch between achieving tone and conveying mood and expression.

Is there a term for when pictures are laid out and labelled like this? I'm a sucker for it. I love detail. I think part of it is to do with packing so much into one space, too.

Not-so-hidden motivations. Laois has a problem...

A real problem. The time to reveal your kinks is not when your friend has just been cut down from the twiny grasps of a man-eating plant.

You know when you're really hungry and slowly everything begins to taken on edible potential; I like how meaty this mushroom looks, and the way its feet have mushroom heads, too! The humour of that mid-air running on these dainty little legs makes it. Yes, Laios does stick an axe into the mushroom in the very next panel. Nothing is going to keep that boy down.

Delicious in Dungeon is such a fun book. I had a blast reading it. Fun and enjoyment can too often get lost as absolutely valid things to glean from art. I'm interested to see where it goes from here, in terms of developing what's quite a specific concept. It can continue in this vein of capturing funky magic monsters and doing breakdowns on how to cook them, but the novelty of that is limited and would get samey quick. There's the overarching story of the dungeon being a mysterious cursed land that needs freeing, which is only very briefly alluded to in this volume, and the rescue of Laios' sister, so there are directions in which it could expand or shift between. Looking forward to book 2, which is out later this month.

*This piece was originally written for my August 1-hour writing challenge on Patreon