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posted December 8, 2006
: Matt Wiegle
Partyka, mini-comic, 88 pages, 2003, $4
It's hard to go wrong with any mini-comic that includes a line as odd and creepy as "After dinner, they sharpened their arms." I liked Matt Wiegle's adaptation of a Naskapi Indian story. Ajaye's Wives
has a simple narrative. We meet a man, Ayaje, who in seeking a wife comes across two women with sharp awls for arms, awls that often plunge into nearby flesh causing those folks great injury. He follows the two women back to their native village, and has a change of heart. When he changes his mind and takes action that leads him back to his own home village, he ends up having to paying for this decision.
Wiegle uses a panel per page structure almost exclusively, which helps in communicating the deadpan, matter-of-fact way in which the story unfolds. The acceptance of grimmest reality has its horrifying and funny moments, as when the women assure him point blank that their last husband met with a horrible fate, as if this is something anyone would want to hear. Wiegle's art is functional and sometimes evocative but I'm guessing there's a lot of development still to be had. The art isn't consistent, and somethings are better realized than others. The moments that give the reader information as to what's happening are a lot more dramatic than those moments in which facial expressions or body language should aid to our understanding of what's going on. The best parts of the comic are the sometimes from-left-field choices in terms of how to play a scene, like a pair of pages when our perspective shifts to what Ajaye see while he's rowing, looking at the backs of the women he might marry.