Comics: Time Traveling with Sequential Art

Pioneering cartoonist Will Eisner once described comics as a "sequential art." Expanding on Eisner's theories in Understanding Comics(Morrow, $24.99), Scott McCloud later defined the term as "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence." The capacity for comics to control how readers experience time within a narrative is a key feature of the medium. In these recent releases, cartoonists take advantage of this feature to purposely distort how time is perceived.

storiesReincarnation Stories(Fantagraphics, $29.99) is a joyful, labyrinthine, and profoundly strange journey through the cosmic history of creator Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams). During a difficult recovery period following an eye surgery, Deitch plays memory games with himself to pass the time. He connects extraordinarily vivid childhood memories to near-hallucinations and past lives. Instead of using standard panels to organize his comics, Deitch uses full-page spreads, sometimes with multiple timelines occurring in one drawing. His recently operated-on eyeball hangs at the top of these frames like the sun, reminding readers of how strange the mechanism of memory truly is.

Kevin Huizenga's The River at Night (Drawn & Quarterly, $34.95) is the latest entry in his Glenn Ganges series. Although the book's subject matter varies, Huizenga threads through each of these stories his interest in how the transcendental enters into domestic life. Ganges follows the serpentine river of his thoughts into bizarre contingencies and strange narrative arcs. His insomnia-induced hallucinations appear in nighttime shades of blue and black across panels that continue after the physical page ends.

Much of Ana Galvañ's Press Enter to Continue(Fantagraphics, $19.99) is spare on words. Dynamic and otherworldly, Galvañ's multiple narratives unspool in neon colors across pages without demarcated panels. The most abstract of these three books, Press Enter confounds the boundaries of both comics and visual art to show a world where technology distorts both time and space.

--Emma Levy, publishing assistant, Shelf Awareness