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Bart Beaty Reviews Campo Di Baba, by Amanda Vahamaki
posted March 25, 2008


By Bart Beaty

I hadn't read Amanda Vahamaki's Campo de Baba when I predicted, in my review of Canicola last year, that she would become a "breakout star." If I had, I probably would've guaranteed it.

Originally published in Italian by Canicola in 2005, and last year in French by FRMK, Campo de Baba is one of those books by a young artist that really get your heart pumping just that little bit faster. For a few years I have been wondering where the "next generation" of cartoonists who will really push the limits of the form were going to come from. Finland, with outstanding anthologies like Glomp, looked promising. Italy, with fantastic young artists like Gipi, Andrea Bruno, and Michelangelo Setola seemed a good bet. So a Finn living in Italy? There you have it.


Vahamaki is one of those artists whose books defy traditional comics conventions. Her pages are penciled but not inked. When she erases something from a panel, she simply leaves in the traces of the original drawing as if she wants you to see her process. Quite literally, her fingerprints are all over the page -- in the gutters, and the pencil smears and graphite smudges that seem to structure her process. Her comics seem to be at least as much about the work of creating as they are about the finished product.

Campo de Baba is not much of a story, and it is probably not even a story at all in the classic sense of the word. A young man awakes from a dream -- or does he? At breakfast he is confronted by a blob-like creature. He goes for a drive with a bear. He trades teeth with a dog. He is winked at by an apple. With a tractor, he slaughters a field. He disappears.


The book is described as "a dream awoken in words and images," and that seems entirely apt. Vahamaki's work has a more menacing tone than do many dream stories, which can tend more toward the illusory than the truly disturbing. Certainly, it is her choice of iconography and her linework that drives the tone. There is an air of sadness, alienation, even despair that hangs over these pages, as if the characters and situations are haunted. The landscape is a place that you don't want to visit, and the people are ones that you are afraid to meet, but the story is compelling nonetheless. I was left feeling genuinely unnerved when I finished this book, and that doesn't happen to me very often.

Vahamaki is about to make a splash on this side of the Atlantic. Drawn and Quarterly will feature a new story in the fifth volume of their Showcase (due in July), and a translation of this book is also on the horizon. Hers is a unique voice, and one that will be very welcome.


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Tom Devlin at D&Q confirms the Showcase appearance and says The Bun Field is due in 2009.