Fantagraphics Press, in association with Italian publisher Coconico Books, is publishing a line of comics called the Ignatz series. Each of these comics is an oversized 8.5x11" affair, complete with dust-jacket and high-quality paper. It's in many ways the answer to the notion that a single 32-page comic should be treated as a "disposable" creation, because these books are anything but.
While there are a lot of great comics in the Ignatz line, produced by creators from all over the world, if I had to only read just one selection it would be Kevin Huizenga's "Ganges". With "Ganges" #2 newly released, this book reminds me why Huizenga is such a strong comic creator, and why a new release is cause to celebrate.
"Ganges" #2 contains two stories, although as is often the case in a Huizenga comic, the comics are interlinked. The opening piece is a wordless story detailing a video game fight between two sides. It's fascinating to look at, as Huizenga has created a unique and different game that is both familiar and new to the reader at the same time. With figures that mutate and replicate into different configurations and numbers, it reminds me of watching some sort of experimental animation piece, with impossible gyrations and permutations of a shape as it continues to shift and change before your eyes. I like video games, and never in a thousand years would I have thought that a drawn depiction of a video game would be interesting until I read "Ganges" #2.
This shorter story leads into the meat of the issue, though, in which Huizenga's main character of Glenn Ganges (who as it turns out was playing the game we just witnessed) remembers when he used to work for a dot-com start-up where everyone would stay after work to play a multi-player first-person shooter against each other. The story is about a lot of things, really; it's about his growing addiction to the game, it's about the bonding the game forged between the co-workers, it's about a company founded on grand ideas and dreams slowly collapsing as reality catches up with it, and it's even about the relationship between Glenn and his wife Wendy.
What always really grabs me about a comic by Huizenga is how human and real Glenn feels, and how Huizenga's able to make such ordinary stories about Glenn so enthralling. He's able to infuse his characters and situations with this undefinable quality that makes you want to read more about them, be it stories in "Ganges", his graphic novel collection "Curses", or his "Supermonster" and "Or Else" comics. By the time "Ganges" #2 is done, you've come to care not only about Glenn, but some of his co-workers, especially the foul-mouthed secretary or the worst member of the marketing team known as "Candypants" in the video game.
In the end, "Ganges" #2 is easily one of my favorite comics to show up this year, and I'd wager it will be on a best-of-the-year list for me at the end of 2008. For someone who doesn't play first-person shooters, it actually made me want to do just that. Now that's a comic that is perfectly crafted. Released on my birthday this year, "Ganges" #2 really felt like a special present just for me. Of course, I suspect you'll like it just as much, too. Highly recommended.