ReMind, Vol. 1
(Coffee Table Comics, 2011; 154 pages, collects reMind Chapters 1–3 originally serialized online at www.remindblog.com)
Story and art by: Jason Brubaker
Editing and additional scripting: Jeremy Barlow
Color Assistant: Aaron Daly
Cover Price: $25.00 (US)
Full Disclosure: This is a review of a press proof digital copy of the book provided by the publisher
Jason Brubaker’s reMind is the 2010 Xeric Grant-winning story of a young woman and her cat, drawn by circumstances into a web of intrigue featuring an underwater animal civilization, brain transplantation, and royal lizard family skullduggery. It features a curious combination of animal fantasy and science-fiction, but Brubaker manages to make it work, despite the many pitfalls that come with the mixing of genre fiction tropes. There’s a dream-like quality to the story, although I can’t really write about it at length without giving too much away. The book’s human protagonist, Sonja, is a somewhat reclusive lighthouse tender and self-taught inventor. She lives in the small, tourist-trap, seaside town of Cripple Peaks best known for sightings of “lizard men” (Sonja herself is the daughter of the first local to have seen the creatures) and longs to find a way out of it. When her pet cat Victuals disappears, only to reappear days later in sentient, talking, bipedally ambulatory form, Sonja finds herself unintentionally and inexorably pulled into the affairs of the underwater lizard man society that exists just off the shores of Cripple Peaks.
Brubaker’s storytelling technique is clear and competent, the backgrounds are full of detail, and his depictions of the story’s talking animals are charming. The decision to use muted colors is an inspired one, as the palette complements the title’s dreamlike tone and setting. I’m significantly less impressed with his inking style and his work on the human face and figure, though. The fixed inking line (a.k.a. the “dead” inking line) he employs throughout the book, while perfectly functional, detracts from its overall aesthetic, negatively impacting the sense of depth and leaving scenes looking somewhat flat because of a lack of line width differentiation between foreground and background. His work on human figures reminds me slightly of a much rawer and less dynamic version of early Adam Pollina or even very early Sam Kieth (who contributes an excellent pin-up in the book, by the way). Even setting aside considerations for personal preference, it’s clear to me that there’s room for improvement with regards to Brubaker’s rendering technique, but his solid grasp of storytelling fundamentals and the book’s excellent pacing kept that concern from becoming too much of a distraction during the reading experience.
While I found the book to be engaging and entertaining despite my misgivings about certain aspects of the art, as with Archaia’s Old City Blues book, I find myself balking at advocating this volume as an outright purchase at the list price of $25.00 since the chapters that make up the book are readily available for free reading on the author’s website. Those with reservations about the art will probably be better served going with the free online edition first, while those who can afford it and are keen to take a more direct hand in supporting a promising comic book talent in Jason Brubaker can purchase the book from Amazon or from one of the stores in this list of locations.
Recommended, with qualifiers.