Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Burning Building Comix by Jeff Zwirek

I often think that we, as comic book fans, forget that comic books are primarily a visual medium. Like all visual mediums, comic book graphics need to be played with, stretched, and tweaked to keep them fresh and exciting. I can’t tell you how bored I get with books that are splash page after splash page after splash page (Marvel!) or books that are 3 tier panel page after 3 tier panel page after 3 tier panel page (DC!). This is why I am always on the lookout for artists that are willing to push the medium, willing to try something different, or just experimenting with formats other than the same 7x10 comic book I read every week. Because I wanted something different, this week I read Burning Building Comix, written and illustrated by Jeff Zwirek, published by Imperial Press.

Burning Building Comix is the story of the people on 10 floors of an apartment building that has caught on fire. The fire starts on the first floor and works it’s way up. The story is read from the bottom up so you can see just how everyone is impacted by the fact that their apartment in suddenly on fire. Every floor is different and every story is different and every one is fun.

Burning Building Comix is a 12.25 x 6.25”, 40 page hardcover, art project. Yes, art project! There is no doubt that Zwirek is trying something different with this book. The book is opened vertically and forms a little tower. Once opened, the pages can be turned so that you have 5 rows of 4 panel cartooning. It reminds me of the comics page from the newspaper with less spacing between the panels. The pages are thicker than normal comics which give the whole package a sturdy feel. It’s more akin to a book than a comic.

Zwirek’s art is cartoony which is in keeping with the presentation. His art appears to be influenced by the likes of Seth and Chris Ware, with simple elegant lines which makes the characters lively and fun to look at. Zwirek is adapt at having the characters express emotion with a certain cartoon elegance. It’s almost as if they were overacting to insure that you understand exactly which emotion they are feeling.

The book is wordless so the whole project rests on Zwirek’s ability to tell the story. I was very happy to say his storytelling is very good considering he limited himself to 4 horizontal panels per page. There’s a simplicity to his line that carries your eye across the page. Basically, each ‘story’ involves the character walking, or running, across his/her apartment to get to the door out. It’s a short distance but Zwirek keeps moving the backgrounds which adds to the motion of the page.

Another aspect which keeps the book entertaining is Zwirek’s choice of characters. Each floor has a distinctly different character. There is an old woman with a dog, a Satanist, a pregnant woman and her husband, and others. It’s fun to see how each reacts differently to the fire. It also gives Zwirek a chance to insert some visual comedy into the book.

This is one of those books that is all about the fun. It’s about trying new designs and working within the medium but in such a way that you still have a story that is fun and engaging. If you’re looking for something different then this is a good book for you.

You can visit Jeff here.

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