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Estrus Comics #5
posted October 20, 2007


Creator: Mari Naomi
Publishing Information: Self-Published, mini-comic, 48 pages, 2007, $5
Ordering Numbers:

I wasn't all that familiar with Mari Naomi's work before sitting down with this mini-comics, although I'm certain I've seen it out there somewhere before. I wish I had paid closer attention, because this is as strong an out-of-left-field book as I've read all year. In Estrus #5, the San Francsico-based artist and cartoonist allows her feature "Ex-Factor: A Romantic Resume" to take over from cover to cover. These are short stories based on the author's romantic interests from kindergarten until now, distillations of longer experiences into one or two scenes that she hopes may one day be collected into a single volume. I guess you could sort of see it as a companion piece to David Heatley's "My Sexual History," only with greater attention paid to tracking the individual emotional contexts through which she found attachment with whomever and less attention trying to build some meaning out of a catalog of sexual desires.

imageAlthough more casually than perfectly crafted, the comics in Estrus #5 prove compulsively readable. They're funny and sometimes affecting, making it easy to see oneself in the details, such as the way the young Mari bails on a boy because of a peer's harsh appraisal or noticing the place where she and a boy had sex outside was easily seen from a nearby road. At the same time, there's always that sneaking suspicion when it comes to such personal work that the portrayals may not be fair, or that we're simply peeping at the instances described, or that the experiences are forced to conform to Naomi's treatments of them as a sprightly anecdotes when they could or maybe even should mean something entirely. By that I don't mean to suggest anything having to do with a factor some people are likely to hit on right away, that most of the book is given over to anecdotes stemming from a minor. I actually like the matter-of-factness that Naomi brings to that element of her story. It's more a sense that I always wonder if the cartoonist has a story that doesn't make for an entertaining comic book short.

Still, any cartoonist who enters the art form inspired by Scott Russo's Jizz -- which is beginning to look like the one book of that moment in comics which was hugely influential without having a presence for itself before or after that time -- gets a bit of leeway from me. I would imagine anyone drawn to the freedom with which Russo made his pages isn't going to waste it putting together an elaborate construct. I think there's something there. No matter how you end up looking at Mari Naomi's comics, if you have the opportunity I'd definitely suggest you take that look.