Sounds of Your Name BOOK review by Norene Cashen
Feb 27, 2008, 18:36
SOUNDS OF YOUR NAME by Nate Powell; Microcosm Publishing, 2007
Artist Nate Powell's short biography says his first inspiration came from browsing a Fantastic Four activity book when he was just a tike. Since 1992, he's been a prolific creator of comics and zines. This 328-page book collects scattered pieces of his work from 1998 to 2004.
Although the Fantastic Four, a dysfunctional family of superheroes, is what inspired Powell to start drawing, it's the dysfunction of ordinary folks that keeps his varying narratives going. Lost soldiers, burned-out teens, anthropomorphic snakes, living skeletons, and menacing political figures inhabit the broken chapters of Powell's stories.Â
With or without words, his comics are meditative, filled with unexpected shifts in perspective and levels of light. Mundane conversations are broken by waves of black and sweeping philosophical thoughts. In “Scrubs,” a working class couple with soft robot faces struggles under the oppression of their alarm-clock-driven life. “Conditions” is a depressive tale of ill-fated love between two teenage friends set against the dread of old age “as each sunset becomes only another countdown.”
Toward the end of this collection, a section from Powell's graphic novel, It Disappears (previously published by Soft Skull), shines out from its own darkness. It's a trek through reality interrupted by forest detours and talking animals.
Powell's beautiful illustrations draw the reader into a sort of chaos that, at times, resists coherence or a recognizable style. Collecting this much of his work in one volume highlights his tendency to deviate, wander, and create new worlds.