Whores of Mensa #5: Small But Mighty
Submitted by Xaviar Xerexes on May 10, 2011 - 23:00
Ellen Lindner, Mardou and Jeremy Day, collectively the U.K.-based comics band Whores of Mensa, invited a big group of their friends to participate in the fifth issue of their anthology series. Subtitled "Small But Mighty Mini Edition" this book's theme is parties and celebrations and features a collage cover in a style somewhere between Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's.
Overall it's a good book with some really well done, interesting and entertaining comics in it. The absolute stand out for me is the first entry from Patricia Aggs, titled "Grace Jones Has Left the Building" which features good solid art, nice pacing and an ambitious sense of scene, with a chaotic mix of people in a hair salon. In only seven pages, Aggs creates a number of interesting characters -- a mix of the employees and customers. There's not that much plot, just the end of a day and discussion of after work plans, but Aggs captures real conversation in a group setting as well as the quiet, exasperated desperation of one of the customers. She manages to deliver humor and a touch of pathos as well.
I also liked Cliohna Lyons' "Partwhy" -- more for its skillful execution than the simple story of a girl tiring herself out getting ready for a party. Her artwork is quite vibrant and the visuals for the main character are fun to look at all by themselves. Francesca Cassavetti's "Parting Gifts" was a cute story -- also perhaps not that ambitious of a tale but a nice evocation of childhood parties.
Emily Ryan Lerner's "New Year's Eve 2002" is also a standout part of the book. I liked this for a lot of the same reasons I liked Aggs' story -- it created a real sense of place with a small group of characters colliding around a New Year's Eve party. Lerner has a real knack for shifting up and down the scale of realism to symbolism too; while the art is more simplistic (it kind of reminded me a bit of Tracy White's Traced) it's not simple. I also liked Maartje Schalkx's "found" which has an interesting formalist aspect too it with its use of a street map for its panel structure.
The two stories from the members of the collective are interesting too (Mardou does not have a story in this issue). Ellen Lindner's "Scaphandre" is a story about a woman, Miss Somerson, working for a business in England who is about to be sent back to New York by her boss. It's an elliptical bit of a story -- we know Somerson has lived in New York before but not much more; there is also a bit of unrequited love between her and a married man in the print shop that seems to invoke class barriers. I would have liked Lindner to vary up her lettering weight a bit -- with the heavy bolded text, it felt like the characters were shouting; and I also would have appreciated some spacing between panels, but I enjoyed the effort to tell a more substantial tale in a short space. Jeremy Day's "Lardella" is a cute, slightly ironic, slightly modernist spin on Cinderella. Featherweight but cheerfully well done.
There's a nice video ad for the book as well: