By Oliver Gerlach
Microcosmics is a collection of short, wordless comics about strange alien worlds and peoples, all written and drawn by the phenomenally talented Christine Larsen. It’s an odd collection of little stories, but one that I was thoroughly saddened to reach the end of. This collection is utterly delightful, and well worth your time and money.
There are four stories within Microcosmics, plus a single-page piece before the contents page that functions as a sort of cold open for the collection, setting expectations very effectively. All of these stories are entirely crafted by Larsen, who writes, draws and colours the entire book. What makes this so impressive is her range of colouring approaches; each story has a very distinct visual identity despite all having similar linework and relatively similar premises. It’s a beautiful little book, and each one of these distinct visual identities creates its own magical world for a few pages.
Larsen’s linework is bold and confident, sketching out new characters and settings every few pages with a simple efficiency that is greatly appreciated. There are charming characters, alien plants, and even monsters reminiscent of some of Mike Mignola’s work. The few action scenes present in the collection are clear and exciting, and the faces bring a huge amount of emotion without the characters ever needing to speak. Dialogue does occur occasionally, but it is always rendered through strange alien glyphs instead of words, which clearly conveys that conversation is occurring without ever needing words. This creative device also functions to show more than words can, however; the introductory story uses the visual nature of the glyphs to pull clever tricks that would not be possible with words. Larsen has clearly put a great deal of thought into her style and aesthetics for this book, and the effort has been entirely worthwhile.
Due to its nature as an anthology of short, silent stories, Microcosmics doesn’t have a larger plot to discuss, and any description of the short comics themselves would spoil the magic a little. I think, however, that it’s enough to say that they’re all captivating and charming in their own way; tiny vignettes of a strange and vibrant world that really need no expansion. I’d happily read full-length graphic novels about any of these places and peoples, but that which is contained within each story functions perfectly as it is.
Obviously, a silent short story collection isn’t going to be to everyone’s tastes. However, this is something radically different from most indie comics on the market, and it’s a style of work that I’d love to see much, much more of. It’s charming, it’s friendly, it’s engaging, and it stands alone without needing any further expansion or explanation. Discovering Microcosmics in a week where I’ve been growing increasingly tired of the comics industry and the seeming predictability of most indie work has been a breath of fresh air; this is a wonderful little piece of imagination and pure creativity. It’s a tiny collection filled with more life and passion than most far longer series, and it’s really something special.
Writer/Artist: Christine Larsen
Publisher: Snaga Comix