Panel: Travel by Various Artists
Travel is the eighth volume of the Panel anthology from the Columbus, Ohio Ferret Press. Each volume develops from a central theme, i.e. luck, myth, or music. This time out it’s the concept of travel.
Inside, the artists and writers take turns creating short tales with the central theme. Sean McGurr and Tim McClurg’s “Good Humor” involves a very unappetizing ice cream cart in Central America. Tony Goins runs into a crusty hitchhiker with a strange request, and Craig Bogart’s character in “Fat Man Walking” decides to walk across the country.
Matt Kish depicts travel on a higher plane – reincarnation by indecision.
In “Bystander,” Dara Naraghi and Andy Bennett craft an intriguing collection of snapshots that tell the story of why a young woman really travels.
Tom Williams ends the book with “VEGASS,” a funny series of postcards arranged to record a weekend in Las Vegas. An overweight, shirtless loser runs into trouble with the law after overdoing it, “I really crossed a line pissing on that nun. I know that now.” Over just a few pages, he’s stumbled from wide-eyed excitement to growing shame. Williams possesses a confident line and a nice disregard for traditional page structure.
In between the opening pages and Williams’ finale, Travel, like most anthologies, is a mixed bag of good and bad. In “A Day in West Virginia,” Dan Barlow’s art is bold and sketchy. He looks to be influenced by Becky Cloonan. The only problem here is that the text and word balloons do not mesh with the rougher art. The rectangles and word balloons are too perfectly formed by computer, and the lettering is computer font as well. The art and the text are at odds with each other, rather than working seamlessly together.
This same thing happens in “Transcendence” by Steve Black and Sean McGurr. Black’s art is perfectly suited for the subject matter – a praying monk with a yearning for travel – but the too perfect text boxes and computer font clash with the images of a monk mentally rising from his static existence.
Now I feel like I’m harping on the PANEL gang here, but I mean it in the most constructive way... A third story, “Uprooted,” by Matt Kish and Steve Black, combines a delicate, photo-realistic rendition (almost like Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man) of a woman wistfully gazing at past homes and apartments, with sterile computer font and angular text boxes. It's less jarring here, but the font fails to do justice to the art.
To end this review on a high note, I’d like to point out the excellent construction of Panel: Travel. The central theme of travel is perfectly captured. Travel looks exactly like a passport. If you see it on the table from across the room, it’s a passport. Keeping the theme in a clever way, the index looks like an online map of highlighted locations.
Panel: Travel contains 9 stories in 52 pages. Check out Ferret Press for more details. Also check out the always entertaining blog for random goodness.