Spaz! #5 (Self-Published by Emi Gennis): You know, I review hundreds of (mostly lackluster) mini-comics each year and it’s so refreshing to see one done so exceptionally well. Gennis’ latest issue of Spaz! is printed terrifically, where blacks are true black, panel borders are tight, the pages are cropped professionally without getting all wonky, I mean, the thing is just pristine. That professional packaging lets the craft shine, it really showcases small things, like Gennis’ lettering, which seems a bit influenced by a craftsman like Terry Moore. I enjoy lettering that isn’t so mechanical, like this, where size and intonation and line weight all seem to vary, and you can sense the hand of the artist, in order to infuse the letters with additional meaning beyond their simple grammatical purpose. Gennis offers different types of strips in this issue, some continuing her fun series of entries on Wikipedia’s List of Unusual Deaths. There’s the baby found dead in a crib after the parents left for a 10-hour gaming session at the local internet café. The parents were ultimately convicted of negligent homicide, the irony being that the game they played involved a fantasy world where they raised a girl with magical powers. Gennis seems to be drawn to stories and whatever illustrations simply strike her fancy, but all of the stories in this issue involve an element of irony running through them as a sort of thematic glue. The lightning that strikes and kills the visiting soccer team in the Republic of Congo (but not the home team), the lifeguard drowning at a party with 200 other lifeguards, the Munchausen’s by Proxy case that inadvertently set medical research back years regarding its correlation to SIDS, or her own adventures clubbing, where she’s encouraged to stick out her tits or let her thong peek out, probably attracting the type of person she wouldn’t want as a mate in the first place. This last one is a smart piece that also plays with society’s antiquated perception of single women, that they can only be happy if they’re married with kids. My sister-in-law is an educated, single, beautiful, successful, 40 year old who really has no interest in that well-beaten path and I see her struggle with it all the time. Just sayin’. I really enjoyed the way Gennis depicted people dancing in the club scene. There are some line striations that give a grayed out effect and provide a sense of blurred motion to characters in the background. Sure, she uses cross-hatching and stippling patterns all over the place, but this specific trick is something I’ve never seen done before that works incredibly well. Her art strikes a terrific balance between some slightly comical and exaggerated caricature style features, with a life-like sense of realism. It’s an extremely effective way to juxtapose the believability of real events, but deliver a heightened sense of emotion. One of my favorite pieces is the single page that explains her paranoia about riding roller coasters. Not only does it tap into one of the creator’s slightly neurotic and endearing phobias for personalized effect, but it shows off her talent as both a writer and an artist simultaneously. The piece works as a bit of “funny,” showing nearly-comical non-fiction tragedies from Magic Mountain to Six Flags, to Cedar Point and beyond. This piece is remarkable in terms of sheer layout ability too. It’s a 9-panel grid, where each panel tells of a different incident and can stand alone, yet they all come together to form an intelligently designed mosaic as a single unified image. It works in primary, secondary, and tertiary layers of meaning, which is really tapping the latent potential of the sequential art paradigm in its sweetest spot. Congratulations to Gennis for being a recent SCAD grad, as well as her forthcoming editorship of a Hic & Hic Publications anthology. Hic & Hoc is one of my favorite new publishers, so it’s great to see like-minded creative types pool together. I’ll also recommend her blog to you, which chronicles, among other things, a recent whirlwind trip to Portland. It’s a fun read and one of the best creator blogs I’ve seen in a long time. Gennis’ style and craft are improving at an exponential pace with every single project and I’m happy to see her career in comics apparently blossoming just as fast. I can’t wait to see what’s next for her. Grade A.