Understanding The Process
Joe Infurnari's The Process is an ambitious bit of work. It's not clear how long or big its scope will be (Infurnari has posted two chapters and at least a third is indicated as "coming soon") but from what we can read of it so far, it is nothing less than Infurnari's attempt to dramatize the creative process.
Infurnari himself explains that "The Process webcomic is an opportunity for me to flesh out a story that I have been thinking about for a very long time. What it amounts to is a journey and exploration through a personal 'pleroma', an imaginary landscape populated by strange, wondrous creatures and archetypal characters. There will be autobiographical moments as well, but even they will be infused with magic and mystery. The Process touches all aspects of my life; the imaginary infuses the real."
Chapter one focuses on a fatal encounter between a "scrit" (described as a "small land crustaceon") and the small boy who smashes it with a rock. Chapter two starts with an image of the dead scrit and then pulls back to reveal the distressed creator Joe Infurnari who is a character in the comic. Chapter two's mix of elements of chapter one with the character of Infurnari's apparent diabetic attack pulls the story in a more self-aware, meta direction than the straight forward narrative of chapter one.
There is a lot of nice artwork to look at in this comic and I enjoyed the fact that Infurnari is experimenting with various styles and techniques in it. The shifts in visual style actually work very well to give some sense to the story, again particularly in chapter two where Infurnari does some interesting things to show the different levels of the characters in the story from chapter one and the reality of the creator imaging the characters from that story in chapter two.
What I am less convinced of though is the story itself. While it's certainly a potentially interesting story. it's clearly written as a novel and there is really only one payoff at the end of each chapter. So in terms of narrative, well, there's not much there yet. The first chapter, taken on its own, is really not much more than a scene setting device and the somewhat surprising boy-smash-bug ending. The second chapter turns the first chapter into a story-within-a-story and essentially uses the creative process in the creator's mind as its narrative, ending with the well-telegraphed, apparent diabetic coma of the creator.
A topic like the creative process with all of its potential for meta-commentary on the comic itself (and the danger of drawing attention to let alone destroying the fourth wall) certainly can be a fascinating topic that rewards the reader with new insight into art and its relation to life. But it can also fail that much more spectactularly if it misses the target and devolves into a muddled patchwork of self-aware text and metaphorical images. For that reason, part of me winces somewhat seeing this nominated for an Eisner right now. For all of the comic that has been published so far, there's a whole lot more to go and while one hopes that Infurnari will finish this comic at the high level that he's started at, well, there's no way of knowing yet. And if the comic goes off the rails in later chapters, well than the potential in these first two chapters won't mean that much.
But let's finish this review on an optimistic note -- there is a lot of potential in the first two chapters. And although it was probably a year too early to nominate this for an Eisner, it's definitely worth taking a look at.