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I Want You #2
posted December 1, 2010

imageCreator: Lisa Hanawalt
Publishing Information: Pigeon Press, comic book, 44 pages, 2010, $6.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781935443070 (ISBN13)

There's a tendency with an artist as clearly accomplished as Lisa Hanawalt appears to be to leap to judgment and crown them with all the empty fury that the comics Internet and its print satellites can muster. That'd be a singular shame in this case. Some of the most exciting elements of Hanawalt's work in her solo comic book I Want You, a second issue of which currently graces select comics shelves thanks to the heroic efforts of Pigeon Press, arise from our not quite knowing where her mix of gag cartoons, painting and illustration techniques will take us. Her talent exceeds even the big tent of Next Big Thing. Some insights regarding her work will come more quickly than others. Her comics with animal figures hold real power, particularly when it comes to employing grotesques. In subverting our expectations regarding the depiction of natural agents, Hanawalt creates some the most handsome depictions of straight-up horror imagery this side of Renee French.

Other shorts, such as the vignette material that could be autobiographical or maybe just informed by such stories, feel much harder to gauge. My first impulse is to ease off a bit and enjoy the visceral elements involved. Readers such as myself will likely learn how to process Hanwalt's visual vocabulary and variations on deadpan humor over time, concurrent to her becoming more accustomed to making comics and, one would hope, as she continues to try different things on the page. Even if you're still sifting out the details like I am, there's little doubt that I Want You #2 provides a exhilarating rip through a number of presentational styles, from constrictive format strip parodies to oddly paced mini-narratives to straight up theatrically-staged joke pieces. It's clear from the cover on in that Hanawalt has chops to spare, and by book's end even the most tone-deaf grump would admit she can be extremely funny. Moments like those instigated by the three or four choicest lines in "How To Flatter A Person" are worth entire comics from less promising cartoonists. I just hope there's enough of interest in comics for Hanawalt to keep her making them until I catch the rest of the way up.

an excellent interview with Hanawalt, with a lot of discussion of her influences, can be found here