Tag: Meta 4

The Best Comics of 2011

by on Dec.13, 2011, under Comics

The annual exercise. Please to begin the arguing.

#7 Amir, Zahra’s Paradise

Zahra’s Paradise begins on June 16, 2009, the day after one of the earliest and largest election protests in Freedom Square. Mehdi, a nineteen-year-old university student, was at that protest and hasn’t come home. His mother Zahra and his brother, the unnamed narrator, are worried about him and try to find out what’s happened. That’s it, but that basic motivation allows Amir and his artist collaborator Khalil to create a full portrait of the horror of daily life in Tehran during the repression that followed the protests.

#6 Fred Van Lente, Comic Book Comics

For a comic book buff it’s fascinating to read tidbits like the series of events that led from the Frankfurt School, to Fredric Wertham’s testimony before Congress, to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, to the death of EC Comics, to the birth of Mad magazine. Or how the increasing crackdown on drug paraphernalia in the early 1970s put head shops out of business and thereby killed the distribution network for underground comix artists like Robert Crumb. Issue #5 even manages to make interesting reading out of nothing but the many intellectual property ripoffs and lawsuits that have plagued the medium since its birth.

#5 Ted McKeever, Meta 4

I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that Ted McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form. Now available in a trade collection.

#4 Phil Hester, Golly vol. 1: Catching Hell

Golly feels as if someone took Garth Ennis’s Preacher and drained out all the meanspiritedness, sadistic jokes, and sexism. Golly Munhollen grabs the circus strongwoman’s ass one day, she knocks him out, and he’s visited by an angel who informs him that the Apocalypse has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of interest, and in the meanwhile he’s been appointed the clean-up squad for all those demons left running around the world. When Golly asks the logical question—why me and not someone smarter—the angel tells him that from a heavenly perspective the difference between him and a genius is negligible. “It would be like asking you to look into a puddle and select the smartest amoeba,” it says. “You will do.”

#3 Charles Soule, 27 (Twenty-Seven)

Will Garland has a repetitive stress injury in his playing hand, and in trying to cure himself accidentally makes a Faustian bargain that leaves him with a console implanted in his chest. Every time he activates it he gains a miraculous ability for three hours, but after the 27th time he does so, he will die. The ending is unexpected yet perfect. Now available in a trade paperback.

#2 Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, Daytripper

Every issue of Daytripper tells an episode in the life of the protagonist, Brás, at a different age. Brás starts his working life as an obituary writer, then becomes a novelist in his thirties; at the end of each issue he dies and we read the opening lines of his obituary. Though the episodes are told out of order, we realize very quickly that we are to read each one as if none of the preceding deaths happened, but everything else we’ve read about did. Brás has many loves in his life—a girlfriend, a wife, a best friend, a father, a mother, a son, a dog—and there are episodes touching on each of them. Brás is built up as the sum of these many loves and remembered in relation to them in each of his obituaries, in an extended meditation on loving in the face of death.


#1 Anders Nilsen, Big Questions

If Chris Ware is the comic book medium’s James Joyce, Anders Nilsen is its Samuel Beckett. Think Beckett meets Beatrix Potter, adorable little creatures on a bleak, featureless plain, staring into the abyss—but hopeful nonetheless, in its own way. “We can’t ever really know the outcome of our actions,” one of them concludes, “but if we act earnestly, and do our best, everything will turn out right in the end.” Of course the bird saying that happens to be responsible for the deaths of many others. And dead herself. Now available in collected form.

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META 4 #5

by on Apr.04, 2011, under Comics

When I reviewed the first issue of Meta 4 I wrote: “okay, Ted, I’ll give you five issues’ worth of rope. Try not to hang yourself.”

And when I got and read this last issue, I thought Ted McKeever had pretty well hung himself. The story seemed too bizarre, too packed with competing weird ideas. Most problematically, this was a book that explicitly billed itself as an “allegorical series,” yet I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be an allegory for.

But just like I gave the series a chance in the first place out of respect for McKeever, I decided I should read all five issues straight through to see if they made any more sense like that.

And they did. Everything clicked into place. I think (and this was never my strong-suit philosopher so I’m not sure, but I think) that McKeever has written a Heideggerian allegory in comic-book form.

A lot of what distracted me initially were the details: why was the unnamed amnesiac hero in a spacesuit? Why did his Amazon protector speak only in pictograms? Why did bullets talk to him and tell the story of a SWAT team raid on a hostage crisis? The main character is obsessed with these details too, at first.

The amnesiac is perhaps Dasein. As this gentleman explains:

The “there” of there-being may be disclosed by attunement or by understanding. The “there” of there-being is also the thrownness of its being, in that Da-sein always discovers that it is already in-the-world.

Instead of figuring them out, though, our hero slowly comes to realize that their reasons do not matter. We never come to fully understand the hero’s past or his world, and neither does he. “My past no longer fits me,” he says. “Time enough to let it go.”

And when the amnesiac stops struggling, he ends up experiencing transcendence, alone on a desert mountaintop. He tells us:

I no longer have even the slightest desire to find out or figure out how I came to be there in the first place. It no longer makes any difference connecting every single thread that bridges all the dots of my past: It brings about not one change to this moment of translucent elevation.

All of which is not to say that everything said is exact. All human stories are subject to interpretation regardless of intent—only that is as true as I could make it.


Da-sein understands itself by projecting itself as its thrown possibility. The thrownness of Da-sein is its “having been,” and the projected possibility of Da-sein is its “already being” and its “not yet.” Thus, Da-sein unifies the past, the present, and the future. The past, present, and future are referred to by Heidegger as the “ecstacies” of temporality. Temporality is “ecstatic,” and is the meaning of there-being. Da-sein temporalizes itself in its being-in-the-world. Da-sein reveals the “ecstatic” unity of temporality.

McKeever’s art has always been distinctive. He used to always draw his characters blocky, with long squarish limbs, in childlike pen-and-ink cityscapes, and there are traces of that style in the first couple issues of META 4. But META 4 is at least partially painted, I think, not drawn, and by the end of issue #5 he’s doing these incredible negative desert landscapes in stark white and black, rock faces he turns into abstract Modernism. It echoes the final moments of the story beautifully, especially when the hero stands atop his mountain, naked, as perfect as Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. It’s an entirely different level of power than what he could get out of two-dimensional Eddy Current, for example.

Since its a book that does have to be read all at once to be appreciated, I hope Image does do a collected version.

Preview below the fold.

(continue reading…)

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Meta 4 #1

by on Jun.15, 2010, under Comics

In Ted McKeever’s Meta 4 #1, a man in a spacesuit wanders the boardwalk of Coney Island. He can’t remember who he is nor why he’s in a spacesuit. He’s harassed by a junkie in a bathroom, gets assaulted by her boyfriend, and is saved by a giant bald woman in a Santa costume who bears a close resemblance to previous McKeever Amazon androgynes. Interspersed are transcripts of two conversations between “Dispatcher” and “Police” concerning the same hostage situation, or maybe different ones. The first is superimposed on an image of abandoned gas station outside the Nevada Test Site, the second over a series of three views of Coney Island, culminating in a woman’s face in an aviator helmet.

Do I have the slightest idea what’s going on? I do not. Do I trust that a comic entitled Meta 4: A 5-Issue Allegorical Series in Black & White is ultimately going to make sense of everything? Not really. So would I put up with this vagueness if the author weren’t McKeever?

Maybe. Probably not. I don’t know. The fact is, by reissuing his three classic graphic novels from the late 1980s and early 1990s—Transit, Eddy Current, and Metropol—McKeever has earned himself a new generation of fans who were, like me, too young to buy the books the first time around. And while those comics weren’t quite as obscure as this one seems to be so far, they were pretty off the wall. So okay, Ted, I’ll give you five issues’ worth of rope. Try not to hang yourself.

Preview here.

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