The recent resurgence of so-called “solo anthology titles” or “single-creator anthologies” has been a welcome development for those of us who literally grew up on comics of that nature (Yummy Fur, Eightball, Dirty Plotte, Neat Stuff, etc.), but there’s no doubt that this latter-day veritable onslaught of them has been a mixed bag — which is rather the point of anthologies in general, I suppose. And yet many of the newcomers to “the scene” are often a mixed bag, conceptually and qualitatively, in and of themselves, as well, irrespective of the broader comics landscape in general. This shouldn’t be terribly surprising — people tend to forget, but not every strip in Eightball was a winner, especially in the series’ early going — but it also shouldn’t be viewed as a negative : seeing a cartoonist finding their footing, establishing their voice, or whatever other cliche you’d like to use in place of “figuring their shit out” is often a damned interesting thing to have a front-row seat to, and one would do well to keep that in mind as we delve into New York-based artist Isaac Roller’s self-published Transmissions From Dreamtown.
Roller’s been at this for two years now, producing four issues to date, and while it wouldn’t be quite accurate to say the trajectory of them has been uniformly upward, the general character of his series is such that things appear to be moving in the right direction on the whole, and he seems quite comfortable with the de facto “self-apprenticeship” that is learning on the job with no boss to tell you what to do — which, for the record, is not the same thing as fumbling your way forward in the dark. It’s a tricky business, this whole “following your artistic instincts for good or ill, wherever they may lead you” thing, and in a manner not entirely dissimilar to that of Brian Canini, whose work we’ve discussed on this site several times in the past, Roller doesn’t seem particularly anchored down to any one way of doing things — tonally or aesthetically.
Does this make roller a genuine artistic chameleon by default? Possibly, but there is a definite unifying overall sensibility in terms of his page layouts, spot use of wash effects, and the like that clues you into the fact that these books are all made by the same person regardless of the obvious differences that are front and center. I’m not sure he’s fully committed to any one “path,” so to speak, but he appears firmly committed to discovering one, and that means everything’s still on the table and the future of this comic is well and truly wide open.
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