Thursday, 13 September 2012
Notes from the Small Press 14: Planet 4, a Monitor Story by Chris Reynolds (Mauretania Comics, 2012)
While we're all waiting, breath appropriately bated (ahem), for the next instalment in the Great Tom Ripley Reread, let's have a Notes from the Small Press, and a return to a creator who featured very early on in this intermittent series on small press comics: Chris Reynolds.
Back in 2010, Chris, you might dimly recall, kindly granted me permission to reproduce one of his Monitor stories for the second Notes from the Small Press: "Monitor's Human Reward". As I said at the time, "Monitor's Human Reward" is my favourite ever comics short story, but I struggled to articulate why exactly that was – because the thing about Chris's comics is, although I often find them deeply affecting, pinpointing their peculiar appeal is tricky. They're elliptical, elusive things, characterized by a wistful sense of loss or longing, an evocation of solitude and introspection. This is especially true of the Monitor tales, and it's certainly true of Chris's latest Monitor comic, Planet 4, available for $2.99/£1.95 from Smashwords, Amazon and other e-retailers.
Told in a one-panel-per-page form, Planet 4 follows Monitor as he returns to the eponymous world where he once lived, revisiting old haunts and reflecting on his feelings about the place now. It's ostensibly a science fiction tale – Chris himself describes it as "meditative science fiction" – but the SF trappings, as mysterious and intriguing as they are, aren't where its appeal lies: anyone who's ever gone back to a town or city in which they once resided will recognise the plaintive emotions the story evokes. But Planet 4 isn't just about the past: it's about the future, and change, and lives not lived, epitomized by a twin planet which hoves into view, unannounced, halfway through, like one of the lands at the top of Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree – a place of "maybes" and "might-have-dones".
It's a beautiful, quietly compelling little comic, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Don't just take my word for it though: Chris's fellow small presser Ed Pinsent managed to sum up what's special about Planet 4 in one pithy paragraph the other day, so I urge you to go read that if your curiosity has been piqued – and indeed the rest of Ed's site, as he's been updating his small press cover galleries of late, a fantastic resource which, as it happens, boasts lots of examples of Chris's comics from the 1980s and '90s.
Previous Notes from the Small Press:
Notes from the Small Press 1: Fast Fiction Presents the Elephant of Surprise
Notes from the Small Press 2: Monitor's Human Reward by Chris Reynolds
Notes from the Small Press 3: Small Pets
Notes from the Small Press 4: Anais in Paris by Mardou
Notes from the Small Press 5: The Curiously Parochial Comics of John Bagnall
Notes from the Small Press 6: Ed Pinsent's Illegal Batman and Jeffrey Brown's Wolverine: Dying Time
Notes from the Small Press 7: The Comix Reader #1
Notes from the Small Press 8: A Help! Shark Comics Gallery
Notes from the Small Press 9: Some Gristavision Comics by Merv Grist
Notes from the Small Press 10: Some Sav Sadness Comics by Bob Lynch
Notes from the Small Press 11: a Review of Illegal Batman in the Moon
Notes from the Small Press 12: The Sky in Stereo by Mardou
Notes from the Small Press 13: First by Tom Gauld and Simone Lia