Comics Alternative, Episode 178: Reviews of Nod Away, Gulag Casual, and Haunted Love #1

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This week the Two Guys with PhDs Talking about Comics discuss three very different titles. They begin with Joshua W. Cotter’s Nod Away (Fantagraphics), an ambitious sci-fi narrative that explores the impact, and the costs, of technological progress. At least that’s what the guys think the book might be about. As both Andy W. and Derek point out, one of the distinguishing features of this book is its ambiguous or equivocal nature. There are many moving parts to this story — hive communication, inter-dimensional wormholes, suspended animation, unexplained quests — and the guys aren’t entirely certain how all of the pieces fit together. But that’s OK. Part of the beauty of Nod Away is that HauntedLove-Wormsit paints a narrative picture best observed from a broader context, while at the same time the fine detail of Cotter’s art compels us to investigate its many intricacies. The guys also speculate as to the significance of the title, another meaningfully uncertain facet of this book. Next, they look at Austin English’s Gulag Casual. This book is part of 2dcloud’s current “Winter Collection” Kickstarter campaign, and the the guys introduce the publisher, and its Kickstarter, to their listeners. English’s book is a collection of five different stories, each of which challenges its readers in the ways of comprehending comics. Derek points out that the stories are very dream-like in their coherency, and the guys spend much of their discussion sharing their strategies for reading this unique text. They wrap up this week’s episode by looking at another title from the offbeat mind of Craig Yoe. Haunted Love #1 is the first of a three-issue series from IDW Publishing and Yoe Comics, and it’s another example of what Craig does best: showcasing precode comics with a mixture of amusement and reverence. As described on the issue’s cover, it’s “the unholy spawn of Haunted Horror and Weird Love” — two tastes that go great together! — so if listeners appreciate those Yoe-inspired series, then they’ll go ga-ga for the seven stories collected in this first issue. There’s a lot of weirdness to go around, but a couple of Andy and Derek’s favorites are “The Dead Are Never Lonely” (originally published in Baffling Mysteries #14 in 1953) and especially “Crawling Evil” (Journey into Fear #10, 1952). Some of these stories are reminiscent of the classic EC style (such as “The Ice Man Cometh”), while others are just nonsensically whacked out. But the best thing about Haunted Love #1 is that it’s classic Craig Yoe. And everyone needs mo’ Yoe, right?