There are those comics that, not at all to their detriment, become deep stack comics – singular issues that seeming interesting but somehow get stuck far down in the pile only to be found at a much later time. Irene #1, a short story anthology edited by Dakota McFadzean, Andy Warner and DW, is one of those comics. A zine sized black and white independent from a collective that seems to have ties to the Center for Cartoon Studies, the five stories it contains are smart quick reads with widely varying styles.
The stories generally fall into two categories: awkward interpersonal relationships and general abstract absurdity, with these two concepts overlapping in varying degrees depending on the individual work. “Skeletons” by Dakota McFadzean is sad and awkward vignette capturing the moment when two young neighborhood friends confront the fact the one of them is moving away, leaving the other to begin a new academic year and occupy the same neighborhood alone. McFadzean’s clean line, slightly cartoony version of the recent past gives a sweet glimpse at the life of young boys, full of video games, annoying little brothers and lots of nothing during long summer afternoons. In a similar vein, “Blueberry” by Nate Wootters also glimpses into the private world of a young man, but here in his relationship with his father. Much more absurdist than “Skeletons”, the abusive power relations find a creepiness in the exaggerated cartoonish empty eyed characters and dense cross hatching.
Unlike many comic anthologies, Irene #1 does not prescribe a set number of pages per each artist, leaving each creator to find the necessary length they feel appropriate for their story. This is advantageous in “Endswell” by Jonathan Fine and “Come into my Heart” by Andy Warner with both slipping in under 12 pages; allowing each to find a rhythm that works for the story and in relationship to the rest of the works in the anthology. Though the quality of the works vary, as is often the case with collection of short works, there is enough in Irene # 1, that make seem the already completed #2 and the upcoming #3 worthwhile purchases and prevent them from becoming future deep stack finds.