Dark Corners is the latest 4-Square anthology from the fine folks at I Know Joe Kimpel. That being said, this book is a quantum leap above and beyond any of their previous efforts. From the size of the book to the quality of the stories contained therein, Dark Corners is the book I have been hoping for from this stable of talented creators!
The concept behind the 4-Square anthology is that four different cartoonists riff on an idea suggested by a word or concept. The first three anthologies (Sorry, NO, and Trivial) were all good, but that was about all that could be said. There were often times an outstanding story (Mario van Buren’s contribution to Sorry springs to mind), but just as often there was a story that seemed lacking or was just not up to rest. Not so with Dark Corners.
From the get-go, this book takes the reader on a Twilight Zone-esque trip that threatens to consume.
Imaginary Friend by Caitlyn Plovnick kicks off the anthology. The straight forward cartooning and storytelling style, coupled with the relationship between the main characters add an innocence and lightness to the story that is essential for the reveal at the end. It would have been very easy for Plovnick to do the visual equivalent of cueing the music and tipping her hand early on, but she wisely chooses to stick with the innocence and allow the final panels to quietly deliver their full impact.
Jenny: The Marsh pt. 2 by Mario van Buren is worth the price of admission alone. The Marsh was one of my favorite books this year, and I was thrilled when I heard that there was another book that continued the story. Van Buren expands his cartooning here a bit, departing from his usual, playful style. The shift is subtle, but it brings a new dimension to the ominous feeling that has permeated the previous Marsh story (as well as the story from Sorry which takes place in the same reality).
I have to wonder…how much longer will van Buren keep teasing us along? How long until we can finally get our hands on a full-length Marsh graphic novel?
Speaking of graphic novels, Of Matters That Occured [sic] on the Road to Carlyle County by Jeff Lok reads like it is excerpted from a much larger story. Told through anthropomorphic animals, this story feels equal parts Bone and The Sopranos (with a little O’ Brother Where Art Thou? thrown in for good measure). Given the dark nature of the previous story, it takes the reader a moment or two to adjust their eyes to the relative brightness of the story. However, as the characters continue their journey, there is an indication that all is not bright and shiny.
The story ends on an ominous, if not slightly confusing note. This story definitely needs to be expanded to a full-length piece, if for no other reason than for me to learn why it is that the doctor has nothing but axes and meat cleavers for surgical implements!
The story in the anthology, I’m Worried About Sammy by Denis St. John, is, indeed, taken from the graphic novel, Amelia. This story is probably the most straight forward scary story of the bunch. It is equal parts psychological horror and supernatural thriller. In this short page allotment the reader is treated to all methods of haunting, possession, and head trips. It is difficult, if not impossible to tell what is real and what is a figment of the imagination.
The rough art work adds to the insanity of the situation and allows the characters to twist and morph in to grotesque parodies of themselves. I believe I will be looking for Amelia when it comes out!
The atmosphere of Dark Corners is enhanced by additional art by Steve Bissette (of Swamp Thing fame). The unsettling single page illustrations keep the reader on edge when transitioning between stories y only showing a portion of the full picture. If the part that is seen is that disturbing, what is unseen can only be worse!
Dark Corners demonstrates that the folks at I Know Joe Kimpel are ready for the big time. There is no doubt that any of the creators in this anthology are ready to step out and try a long-form story. The cartooning and storytelling skills are superb and there are rich stories here that deserve further exploration. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!