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Campo Di Baba
posted May 4, 2007
Canicola, softcover, 54 pages, 2005, 8 Euros.
This is one of the first stand-alone efforts -- perhaps even the
first stand-alone effort -- from the publishing collective Canicola, whose same-name anthology won the fanzine award at the Angouleme Festival this year. A truly international effort, Campo di Baba
(translated as "The Bun Field") is from a Finnish cartoonist and is printed in the Bologna-based group's Italian. It shares with Canicola
the innovation of placing the English translation in same-type lettering at the bottom of each page. It's enough like having the work subtitled I'm amazed this isn't the way all such translated comics are done. The book is that attractive literary journal size that's popular now, and handsomely printed.
Camp Di Baba
is also a very fine short story. Vahamaki's dream-like tale starts in literal fashion with a child in bed dreaming. The child is awakened and then marched through a series of standard little-kid nightmares: the strange intruder at the breakfast table, driving a car, participating in an adult activity (drinking), being sick and cared after and then, finally, the impossible task, which occurs in the field in the story's title. Vahamaki works with an extreme economy of words and in shaded pencils; she has a lovely way of expressing gradations in emotion through facial expressions and grand gestures. Much of the story is unsettling in a funny way, including a long sequence with a bear driving a car and teasing the boy that wouldn't have been out of place in the bounciest issue of Paper Rodeo
The set pieces are strongest when Vahamaki hits on some piece of observed behavior that feels absolutely true and out of place and therefore just a little bit terrifying. This includes the changes in a child's face during different facets of that first dream, what a table of adults in a bar looks like when you're a kid and standing in the door, and the way a younger child in diapers rides a bike over a non-paved surface and hunches their shoulders when talking. It's at those moments that Vahamaki overcomes the more precious qualities of her work. It's then that the reader stops being told a dream and starts being in one.