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posted October 26, 2004


Creator: Rebecca Dart
Publishing Info: Alternative Comics, $4.95, 2004
Ordering Numbers: 1891867725 (ISBN)

Rabbithead's most compelling feature, and the overriding concern of the vast majority of articles written about it, is a simple formal trick played out a slightly greater than usual scale. In cartoonist Rebcca Dart's fecund comics fantasy, plots physically diverge right on the page into separate, strip-like threads that run parallel to each other like a frame by frame police invesigation or a child's board game. It proves to be a lovely and fundamentally appealing way to use comics' spatial elements in service of a narrative. Seeing it here makes you wonder out loud why it hasn't been done with more regularity.

Unfortunately, the narrative splits fail to outpace the reader's constant percepion of them as a really neat stunt. Rebecca Dart's basic grasp on the events depicted is much more interesting than her choice of how to put them in order. Her tale seethes with biological impatience, the smallest action holding within itself the promise of root and blossom. The story remains more stunt than saga in part because the narratives collapse back in on one another in a way that feels like a betrayal of the original split, the flip side of a magic trick rather than a return to first causes.

Dart's relentlessly lurid and depressing take on the natural fascinates and never feels forced. The linework is plump and inviting; the designs induce squirming. Creatures are part horse and worm, part canine and queen ant. Dart's world suggests a kind of overheated laboratory of rot and desperation. This makes for very different fantasy than the common pastoral or even sparse stage-like settings common to such stories. That Dart's iconography suggests cowboys and knights in equal measure holds additional clues as to the nature of Rabbithead's fatalism. A slain monster and an unmarked grave, a faithful animal and a town full of abusers: such combinations suggest marrying fantasy's affirmations of the past with the western's cynicism about the cost of progress.

Dart will hopefully continue such imaginatively told and ultimately fatalistic fables, perhaps next time without the formalist ploys forced into a juggling act at center stage.