THE MOTHER’S MOUTH by Dash Shaw

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I usually use this space to highlight new, or at least newly-in-print comics and collections. But I just read something great, and I want to tell you about it. THE MOTHER’S MOUTH by Dash Shaw is a deeply moving story and a stunningly original exploration the unique capacities of the comic medium. Everyone should read it. We have one copy at Locust Moon. Come and get it, lucky reader, and be enriched. It’s no longer in print, so everybody else is shit out of luck.

Much of Dash Shaw’s brilliance lies in the way be brings his ravenous appetite for innovation to tender, human narratives. Though he seems to be devising his approach in the moment, restlessly mining his inventiveness page by page, the stories are old and the characters familiar. His books are small, well-observed and subtle, but his themes are huge and unmanageable, the stuff of great literature — brotherhood, envy and crumpled desire in NEW SCHOOL, for instance, or loneliness, obligation and loss here in THE MOTHER’S MOUTH. These pure evocations of human longing are the emotional backbone of his work, powerful pulsing centers that guarantee that these stories, for all their obfuscating experimentalism, will never buckle under the weight of their own ambition.

The plot, slight as it is, concerns Virginia Miles, a children’s librarian who must return home to care for her elderly mother. She falls into a cautious, uncomfortably intimate relationship with Dick Lucido, a damaged, gentle musician. They blunder towards some kind of guarded love, fingers pushing through the bars of their shame, fear and isolation, as Virginia’s mother fades and dies. But somewhere over the course of all this you fall under this book’s weird spell, and start receiving Shaw’s urgent, befuddling transmissions.

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Virginia’s story is told in a clunky-clean traditional narrative style, with thick marker lines and brushstrokes, her mother’s face layered, shroud-like, with clean black wrinkles. But just as much space is given over to old photographs, scientific and psuedo-scientific schematics, diagrammed dance steps, newspaper articles, found objects. There are moments when it feels less like a story than a bundle of mementos and documents, wrapped in wax paper and bound up with string. Sometimes you read this book — other times you pluck your way through it, puzzling, turning it over in your hands, feeling for its gnomic meaning in the dark.

There’s a tangle of sex, grief and memory at the center of THE MOTHER’S MOUTH that you can never quite unravel — at least, I couldn’t. Virginia, wracked with sorrow over her mother’s illness and utterly vulnerable , alone in the world, falls in with the daydreamy, Michael Jackson-obsessed Dick and we see their weird, halting, awkward courtship (“Oh my god, I’m sorry did my breath smell?” “Oh, I don’t know, did my breath smell?”). But then there are lengthy detours into Virginia’s first (probably only) love affair, a preadolescent fling with a boy named Richard, who died when he was swallowed up into the depths of a sandbox. Near the end of the book, there’s a news article about a Louisiana therapist who accidentally kills a child named Richard, suffocating him during a controversial therapeutic technique in which patients re-experience their own births. What actually happened to Richard? What is his relation to the similarly-named Dick? What does this assemblage of stuff, connected with the thinnest strands of desire, nostalgia and fantasy, mean?

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Your guess is as good as mine. But answering those questions is not the purpose of this story. It’s the mystery, the haunting feeling of the accumulation of all these bits and pieces, the way they mirror one another, operating according to aesthetic as much as narrative logic. Shaw’s world here is a darkly funny fractal, and his vision zooms in on the tiniest memory, a crumpled snapshot, a child’s drawing, then out to the geologic scale of time. We watch Pangaea break apart then come back together again, see the moon swallowed in darkness, then shimmer through as a crescent now reversed, observe a mythical creature decompose into fossils in a series of cross-sections of sedimentary rock. His versatile, telescopic camera always discovers the same thing: that time marches on, that loss is inevitable, that life is fragile and beautiful.

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In one bravura four-page sequence, a sex scene between Dick and Virginia branches into the roots of a tree, the trunk of which flows into a river, which transforms into a topographical map, which, panning back, is revealed to be the sandbox in which Richard died. Everything is everything else — look at the sweep of history or a microbial organism and discover your own anxieties, grievances and hopes. The same messages are encoded into every sequence. When Virginia’s mother dies, her spirit just puffs our of a her chest as a little Pacman ghost, then floats off as a white silhouette against an empty black spread. Figuration, symbolism and narrative are jostling for page space, pulling against each other, as disjointed as they are unified.

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Like in the work of Chris Ware, the towering ambition of the formal approach plays brilliantly off the smallness and mundanity of the story. Virginia and Dick are stuck in prisons of their own device while the vast universe, impossibly beautiful and frightening, spins around them. THE MOTHER’S MOUTH explores huge and hopeful ideas about Dharmic interconnectedness, universal mirroring and infinite regression in a tale of badly damaged people, lost souls shrouded in scar tissue.

It ends with tentative hope, pillow talk, and Dick’s plans for a haircut. In THE MOTHER’S MOUTH, Dash Shaw summons an entire universe just to make two people feel a little less alone.

MM cover- Josh O’Neill

 

good this week

ok, we didn’t have a chance to read anything yet this week, but these are the books we really wanna read…

rocket raccoon #2

gtw1

nightworld #1

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she-hulk #7

she1

i was the cat

oni

trillium

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the complete elfquest vol. #1

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the ring of the nibelung

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jack davis drawing american pop culture

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food wars!

Shokugeki_no_Souma_Volume_1

The Locust Moon Top 40: July 2014

40. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE

The new Image series from McKelvie & Gillen, a sort of bottomless bonus track to their dark-magic rock opera PHONOGRAM, is one of the most promising series to debut in 2014.

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39. This NSFW Spider-Man Statue

This baffling statue, atop a South Korean shopping mall, gives new meaning to the phrase “web fluid.”

40 spiderbone

38. CHARLES SCHULZ’S PEANUTS: ARTIST’S EDITION

This beautifully designed collection of unaltered original Peanuts artwork brings us Charles Schulz’s earliest strips just as he made them — raw, unfiltered, and a little bit mean.

40 peanuts

37. OUTCAST

The world-weary horror of Robert Kirkman’s story is brought to life by the atmospheric, choking tension of Paul Azaceta’s moody, worrisome artwork. A promising debut for what looks to be a truly frightening series.

40 outcast

36. This Animated Lobster Sculpture

Very lifelike. Keep it far away from butter sauce.

40 lobster
35. THE LEFTOVERS

This off-beat, darkly funny, sprawlingly intimate HBO series, based on Tom Perotta’s novel of the same title, follows life in a small town in the years following the Rapture.

Continue reading

good this week

wonton soup collected edition : before ORC STAIN and GODZILLA: HALF CENTURY WAR, james stokoe was chopping it up like some loco iron chef of comics. this long out of print collection serves up the full 7 course meal of wonton soup goodness.

Wonton_Soup_Stokoe

rocket raccoon #1 : as a long, long time fan of this little critter, i can tell you that skottie young has delivered a pitch-perfect take here. lots of fun, and a good mystery brewing.

rocketraccoon_1

robocop vs terminator : a wacky pairing all the way around, with walt simonson in top form working off a frank miller script.

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the maxx maxximized volume #1 : one of the most influential books of the ’90s is back, in a hardcover edition that sees sam kieth’s seminal artwork recolored and looking better than ever.

maxx_maxximized

-chris stevens

The Locust Moon Top 40: June 2014 – Nemo Edition

This is the space where we usually spotlight 40 amazing things from the last month — adorable cat videos, cheesy songs we can’t stop listening to, and COMICS COMICS COMICS. For the month of June, we’ve decided to do something a little bit different.

If you’ve been anywhere in our general vicinity or exist within nine degrees of separation from us on Twitter, you are probably by now aware of the epic Kickstarter campaign we’ve launched for our insane, Quixotic, 16″ x 21″ hardcover Winsor McCay tribute LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM. This is one star-studded anthology — maybe the most star-studded comics anthology of all time — and there’s been a lot of press and attention on the big names who’ve come together to pay tribute to our favorite Sunday strip: the Paul Popes, John Cassadays, Michael Allreds, J.H. Williamses (and Yuko Shimizus and Bill Sienkiewiczes and Dean Haspiels and yada genius yada).

So we wanted to use this space to draw attention to 40 artists in DREAM ANOTHER DREAM whose names you may not know yet — cartoonists and illustrators whose work is stunning, beautiful, restlessly inventive, original and bold, but who haven’t yet achieved the name recognition of the people mentioned above. One of the things we love most about LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM is that it combines the biggest artists of its day with the biggest artists of tomorrow. Here, in no particular order, are forty folks you should be hearing a lot about in the next few years.

Note: click on any artist’s name to get to his or her website and see more.

40. RAUL GONZALEZ. Raw and refined. Sweeter than sugar, harder than real deal moonshine.
raulgonzalez

39. BODIE CHEWNING is, quite simply, one of the most talented people out there. If only we could get him to draw more than six pages a year…
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38. Master of puppets JENNA TROST charms and creeps in equal measure.
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37. DAVE CHISHOLM slings a pen and a trumpet the exact same way — like he invented the thing, and he’s gonna show you what it can do.
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36. With a precise cartoonist’s eye, KATIE MOODY turns stories upside-down, inside-out and back again.
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35. BISHAKH SOM‘s mind-bending architecture, gentle characters, and inviting colors can keep us staring for hours.
bishakhsom Continue reading

the palace of ice

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this is the book that launched my love affair with little nemo and winsor mccay. up until receiving this book as a christmas present, i had only heard of this master artist and cartooning genius. this book held pure, unbridled wonder from cover to cover, and it was impossible to read it and walk away unchanged. over the years the particular copy i have has acquired a kind of totemic power for me; although i know its contents by heart, opening it up has a mesmerizing effect, a feeling of being transported that i can’t quite describe.

hopefully someone will have that feeling when they open LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM.

maybe they’ll be able to describe it better than i.

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–chris stevens

a spoil of riches

we are neck-deep in the LITTLE NEMO: DREAM ANOTHER DREAM kickstarter, yes, but we’re also getting ready for the 3rd annual LOCUST MOON PHILLY COMICS FESTIVAL on OCTOBER 25th. we’ve got a sweet fest poster done by the talented mister ron wimberly that we’ll be revealing soon, and preparations are under way to improve & expand on last year’s show. but we wanted to do something special this summer, and give folks a taste of what’s to come. it just so happened 3 of the top cartoonists working today all have great new books out, and are our pals, and we’re going to bring them together and rock the philadelphia comics scene for one glorious july night.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1466509490262234/

Coming to the store on FRIDAY, JULY 18…

PAUL POPE’s been someone i’ve admired and looked towards for almost 20 years, which is crazy because he’s not much older than me. his newly released ESCAPO, out of print for years and now in full color, is probably my favorite book of his.

DEAN HASPIEL is the guy i want to be when i grow up. a man’s man with a romantic heart and a creator through and through. FEAR MY DEAR, his new BILLY DOGMA book, is a lean crystallization of dino!’s comics.

TOM SCIOLI’s unbridled love and immersion into comics both recharges me and makes me feel like i need to be doing MORE. the fact he’s taking on my childhood obsession GI JOE, in TRANSFORMERS VS GI JOE, makes me giddy in anticipation and so, so jealous.

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this is going to be a night to remember. see you there.

–chris stevens