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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wondermark. Volume 1. Beards of our Forefathers. David Malki. Dark Horse Books (2008)

This is a collection of strips, with many extras, of the great webcomic. Any comic is a balance between the writing and the art, usually one is more obvious than the other without unbalancing the comic. With Wondermark, the burden rest very heavily on the writing as the art is composed of photoshoped collages of Victorian and Edwardian illustrations. The images are cunningly selected and the way they are arranged is a significant part of the strength of the strip, it is the words that allow it to take flight. David Malki consistently creates absurd and weirdly logical situations in a brief space that are more than simple set up and pay off jokes. The use of language is sinuous and careful, it adds as much to the texture of the strip as the dislocated images do. The consistent variety is remarkable, there is a astonishing range of invention, from the really simple to to truly joyously surreal.
The book itself is superbly designed by David Malki and Keith Wood to really take unexpected advantage of being a printed item. The colours of the pages, the odd stains on them as well as the lovely framing of the strips are a pleasure. At the website if a reader mouses over the strip there is an additional joke revealed, these are printed as footers to the strip in the book and along with the individual strip titles give a full sense of the density of the work that is being done by the author. The book has a considerable amount of additional matter which are very welcome and enjoyable.
This volume provides a strong answer to the question , why buy a collection of a strip you can read for free? David Malki has proved that the different ways of presenting the strip offer very different opportunities to a creator and that publishing a hard copy is more than simply producing a static collection of existing material. This book is very, very funny, creative and just brilliantly produced, a treasure.

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