Friday, 21 June 2013

Books: Freeway


By Mark Kalesniko

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There's this theory (I don't know if you know it) that says that the reason that films based on comic books are so very much popular - or at the very least why there are so many of them - is because (to the untrained eye at least) a comic book and a storyboard look exactly the same: you know - pictures of things one happening after the other: you could swap them over and no one would even notice - right? Except - oops: no - wrong. Mainly because of the old chestnut (and I never get bored of saying this) that film is about management of time while comics are about the management of space (so true).

Which is why reading Mark Kalesniko's Freeway is such a strange experience: here it seems is a comic that seems to wish that it had been born as an animated movie instead. Like: you know how most comics bounce around from different point of view shots from panel to panel and leisurely let the minutes pass by as a scene unfolds - mainly honing in only on the moments of most interest? Well - Freeway isn't really like that: here the gaps between panels seems to be measured in milliseconds- with the same perspective held for successive panels: so much so that if you wanted [1] you could cut out the pages and make a pretty effective little flip-book [2].

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I mean - I think when I started I was a little bit undecided (and I guess I still am now really). Like: it is a bit weird when you have a story that's about one medium that you tell in another? Like: making a film about the benefits of opera; a song about how great literature is; a dance about your favourite building [3]: like - the thought that kinda just always sits at the back of my head when I encounter that type of thing is: hell - if you like that medium so much - then why aren't you using it? (To use an awful analogy: it'd be like using fruit to explain why you like meat or something). But then again: maybe that's part of the challenge you know? Like how in Ratatouille [4] there's those moments when they try and encapsulate the sensation of taste and flavor only using sound and images: so - well yeah - I'm torn [5].

But whatever - probably I'm over-thinking things - right? And maybe (you know) we should just talk about the story or whatever instead - right?

Well: for those of you who like their graphic entertainment a little bit middle-brow (you know: you prefer calling them "graphic novels" rather than "comic books"): then Freeway is going to be right up your street [7]. Yeah - it does star an anthropomorphic dog (whose facial expression is set (seemingly permanently) to "exasperated") but - hey: seeing how it's about animation and all that - that's like appropriate - right? (I can imagine someone saying at a dinner party: "I mean - it's like the story we're reading could be one of the films they're making." And someone else shaking their head going: "Wow man - that's so deep.") But I've got to say that even tho it's well crafted [8] and very good at capturing the minute changes from panel to panel that I mentioned above (so much so that there are bits - particularly when it's just the car speeding down the Freeway - that it's almost as if the images are moving) ultimately the sensation of reading was like watching a glossy ITV feature-length drama that so very badly wants to be taken seriously - I mean: the ambition is there but the actual "oh my god that was totally amazing" artistry just felt (I dunno) somewhat lacking (sorry Mark Kalesniko): as if it's main goal was just respect and nothing else and - well - for me: I'd prefer having a comic that can do more than just acting prestigious (but I realise that maybe it's just me).

[1] Note: please don't obviously.

[2] You all know what a flip-book is right? You know: the type of thing that you used to draw at the bottom hand corner of your exercise book in school? Mainly of stuff exploding, cars crashing into each other and stuff like that... (Fun fact: the German word for flip book is "Daumenkino" which translates as  "thumb cinema" - which I'd say is a pretty cool name for it: "Hey - check out my thumb cinema!").

[3] Yes: intentional reference.

[4] And - hell yes: if I'm mentioning Ratatouille then I've just got to link to this (you're welcome). And - as we're talking about animation then I've just got to include a link to this and this.

[5] And if I'm being totally honest: I guess also that it just makes me feel (suspect) that maybe Mark Kalesniko's has his heart set more on animation than he does on comics - like he tried to break into Disney and couldn't get in and so this is his second choice or something - which (as a comic book reader) just kinda makes me (I dunno) unappreciated on something: like this is just second best an well - ok: will this do? kinda thing (but I'm guessing that's just all in my sick twisted mind - so whatever I guess) [6].

[6] Actually - oops: it turns out that he's a former animator (with his credits included The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Mulan, and Atlantis) so yeah: what do I know? (Answer: not much).

[7] Is that a car pun? I'm not sure...

[8] Well - mostly: it starts out very strong but then - as it goes on - and maybe this is natural for any massive book (it is 416 pages long!) - the quality of the artwork does start to dip ever-so-(almost)-imperceptibility: so that it just kind of feels a little rushed (am I being too harsh?).


Further reading: Are You My Mother?The Nao of BrownAsterios PolypI'm Never Coming Back, Black Hole, David BoringIt's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken, Jar of Fools.

All comments welcome.

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