Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero
By Michael DeForge
Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $24.95
In a never-never land version of a national park, Sticks Angelica exiles herself from her high-profile life in Ottawa, where she was a cultural gadfly and scion of a prominent Liberal MP, now embroiled in scandal. As Sticks befriends the local wildlife – Oatmeal the bunny longs to be petted by her, a moose wriggles into her trademark athletic wear to try and impersonate her – Michael DeForge improvises his own brand of classic comic strip, as though we were reading a mutant Mark Trail. The book is also a self-conscious lark on the Canadian theme of survival, with our headstrong heroine a lost, kindred spirit to Margaret Atwood's nameless narrator from Surfacing or Douglas Glover's castaway Elle. The ramshackle community that forms around Sticks – two horny geese, a feral girl, a lovelorn eel and an irksome journalist named Michael DeForge – struggles with the burdens they've been born into, looking to transcend the limits imposed by their families, their country or their recalcitrant bodies. The moose transitions into life as a human, while the girl changes into a songbird, and DeForge himself wastes away, all drawn in a shorthand that makes nature look shockingly alien.
What Parsifal Saw
By Ron Regé Jr.
Fantagraphics, 80 pages, $19.50
While short, ecstatic bursts of Ron Regé's cosmic symmetries and striated linework fill out the pages of his new collection, two longer stories dominate the proceedings, each of which channels a wildly different New Age myth. The first, Cosmogenesis, illustrates excerpts from the famous occultist Madame Blavatsky's spiritual writings, with Regé conjuring eddying, visionary forms to make manifest the seer's pronouncements about the unity of all existence. Adapting passages that speak of such folderol as "the night of the universe before the flutter of reawakening," Regé tasks himself with something like drawing the shapes we see on the back of our eyelids – and succeeds, with transporting inventiveness. The second extended story is Diana, a retelling of Wonder Woman's origin from 1941, dubbed a "parody" for presumably legal reasons, but actually a rapt and faithful cover version. Regé replicates the original's oddly balletic staginess and mythological mash-ups, in which a contretemps between warlike Mars and lovely Aphrodite ends up with an Amazonian coming to America's rescue. But it's the story's emphasis on the pacifying, unifying power of love Regé communicates most powerfully – and not at all cornily, I should add.
Terms and Conditions
By R. Sikoryak
Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pages, $16.95
In Terms and Conditions, cartooning's brainiest copycat pulls off a high-concept "adaptation" of the iTunes legal agreement, transposing the document's every last word into the word balloons of old comics pages he's redrawn, in each of which a cartoonified Steve Jobs now "stars" as the hero. The idea is simple, but the execution is endlessly engaging. Part of the pleasure here is aesthetic, as we marvel at R. Sikoryak's expert mimicry of everything from Peanuts to Persepolis, but a larger part is intellectual, as we test out how this legalese recontextualizes the panels in which it's been plopped. Sikoryak pairs Apple's bewildering array of policies for "Associated Devices," for instance, with an illustration of Rube Goldberg machines. Elsewhere, Jobs hectors his silent co-stars – stand-ins for all of us iTunes end users – mansplaining the niceties of his corporation's stranglehold on contemporary life (things kick off with Jobs as the clownish Tubby, berating Little Lulu: "You agree that you will pay for all products you purchase through the services"). Sikoryak takes a text that sets out strict limits for legality and proper use, and delights in treating it improperly – it's copied right, not copyright.