Saturday, 8 February 2014

Review: Stories Vol.2 & Catch Me If You Can by Martin Cendreda

Two very impressive self-published comics by Martin Cendreda here. What's immediately apparent when looking at Martin's work is his quality of cartooning. Whilst reading these books, I also became aware that he's a very accomplished, and varied storyteller.

Stories Vol.2 is a 28 page comic containing 2 short stories, and 3 one page gag comics.

'Copy' is a story told visually, and is a darkly comic psychological thriller about an office worker who hates his job, and starts finding 'help me' messages amongst his paperwork. Looking around the office he tries to see if his co-workers are playing a joke on him. After a trip to the photocopier, he notices another message immediately after, which wasn't there previously. Freaked out he locks himself in the copyroom, and writes 'is this a joke?' on the paper and photocopies it, but the out-tray reveals the message "No joke".
As he becomes increasingly anxious, and his co-workers start noticing and mocking his strange behaviour, whilst the copier begins giving him mocking messages, the question remains is the protagonist loosing his mind, or has the office copier got a mind of it's own? And how is he going to react as things come to a head and man goes to war with machine?... Through subtle use of expression, dramatic angles, movement and contrast, Cendreda really creates a comedic but dramatic and slightly creepy atmosphere, whilst in the background, lampooning some of the attitudes, indifference and politics of office life.

'Swimming' is a first person, possibly autobiographical (?) tale about someone who never learned to swim, who recalls an intense dream where they are alone in the middle of the ocean during perpetual night. The dream becomes darker and more of a torment for the dreamer, but then a sudden change occurs. The story is ambiguous, and explores subconscious fears and what can happen when we manage to surrender and let go.

The three one page gag comics are a real change of pace and style, and feature 2 pages of Martin's anthropomorphic cartoon lowlife dog characters 'Matthew & Buster'. These comics are funny and charming and have the feel of old tough 'funny papers' comics, crossed with the tone or stylings of contemporaries like Clowes, Brunetti & Kaz, but with their own originality. The last one page gag strip is called 'Free Hugs' and features Herbert Hound trying to get some freebies and being out of luck, until the last panel's punchline...This is a great collection and showcase of Cendreda's talents.

"Catch Me If You Can" is a 40 page self-contained story, again told visually, about the relationship between a father and his daughter. The story is split into chapters which are cleverly separated by one panel pages images of an acorn gradually growing into a tree, (which we see the little girl mischievously kicking at the beginning of the story), signifying the aging of both characters and a leap to a different time period, which is also done by showing the daughter sneaking off and when the dad catches up, her having aged. This is a funny, tender and poignant tale, which in the wrong hands (or medium) could have felt clich├ęd and schmaltzy, but instead it feels authentic and natural, sweet but not saccharine.
There's a  few great scenes, for example, one where the little girl, eyes bigger than her belly as the saying goes, keeps seeing kids with larger ice-creams and hounds her dad for the bigger ones (he gives in). Also there's a part later on where the dad goes to get his growing daughter an ice cream from the same place, and when he returns, she's grown into a woman and his expression reads like 'when did that happen?'

The last third of the book deals with the inevitability of loss, but also new life, and the daughter spending time with her own child in the place where her Dad used to take her, and the similarities between her relationship with her dad and her own daughter. Martin has a great way of drawing and portraying kids, which is animated and fun which really makes the story work.

Now for some great news, you can read Copy, Catch Me If You Can and many more of Martin's comics for free on his website (including new work in progress), you can also buy his original art and check out his illustration work there: http://www.martincendreda.com/

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