Cold Cut Distribution's Feature Spotlight #30 - December 1997


Publisher:	Alternative Press
Story & Art:	Jon Lewis
Cover Price:	$2.95
Frequency:	Quarterly
Issues Available: 4


Spectacles is an anthology of tales, all by a single artist, Jon Lewis. And like Daniel Clowes' Eightball, it's an anthology with some continuing tales, and some one-shots and vignettes.

One of the continuing tales in Spectacles involves a wandering Finn, a fading rock star, a husband escaping from his wife by playing dead, and a thief on the lam in a magical land. Another continuing tale is about a bunch of housemates at a college, tolerating each other as they go about their lives.

Vignettes and one-shots include a tale of a man whose close encounter with a possum which enters his house leads him into a relationship with a southern girl, a story of a photographer who gets up unusually early one morning and finds a dawn-lit world he never knew existed right there in his own city, and a tale of animals living together in a mystical post-apocalyptic society.
[ panel from Spectacles ]

Writing Review:

Jon Lewis doesn't write novels. He doesn't write stories, either - he writes scenes and characters and emotions. His brief biographical takes are at once personal and general, fables for the modern world. Even his seminal work, the classic True Swamp, wasn't so much a single narrative as a series of vignettes in the life of a paranoid tree frog.

Like a walk through a dreamscape, Jon's stories make an unexpected sort of internal sense as you follow them through their amblings and sidings. When "real life" stories appear (like the possum tale, or the photographer's tale), Jon proves a deft hand at expressing people's feelings and thoughts, but he's at his best when he's spinning mystical yarns in half-familiar lands, and Spectacles is clearly going to feature many tales in that direction, especially with the ongoing "Frost Changes" (art sample above) and the neat "Shell Men" in issue 3 (art sample to the left).

Art Review:

[ panel from Spectacles ] Jon's chunky, thick, unfinished style reminds me of Colin Upton's earlier works in its brevity, yet it gets the point across and usually succeeds in conveying the emotions Jon seems to be aiming for. His style seems to rub against the grain when he attempts to render realistic scenes, but when his subject becomes more iconic - when he's doing stories about magical lands and itinerant magicians, and especially when he's drawing tales of animals - his sparse art only seems to heighten the effect of the writing. Jon seems to be moving more towards iconic tales in Spectacles, with increasing success in the overall blend.


Spectacles is an easy sell to fans of Jon's earlier works, the fabulous True Swamp and its follow-up Ghost Ship. Also try it out with fans of Colin Upton (Buddha On The Road, Big Thing), Tom Hart (Sands), James Kochalka (Magic Boy), and Chester Brown (Underwater).

Readers of Eightball may enjoy the similar story types (though radically different art styles), and fans of Mythography should check out this one-man heavy-on-fantasy anthology too.

If you like Spectacles, take a look at:

Quicken Forbidden

Publisher:	Cryptic Press
Story:		Dave Roman
Art:		John Green
Cover Price:	$2.95
Frequency:	Every four months
Issues Available: 3
[ panel from Quicken Forbidden ]


Jacqueline "Jax" Epoch is your typical teenage girl. She's hanging out with her boyfriend and a bunch of guys when they decide to ransack an abandoned office building in Manhattan. But Jax gets more than she expected when she discovers the reason the building's abandoned: an unstable dimensional rift created by scientists attempting to explore other worlds. In short order, Jax has vanished into the rift and found herself exploring a landscape both unfamiliar and unnatural.

When she manages to find her way back out again, days have passed in the real world, and she's shocked to discover that another version of herself has been living her life while she's been away - and she doesn't exactly approve of what this other self has done. But her otherworldly journey has triggered a chain of events which weakens the barrier between the worlds.

Then, a dragon appears in the New York sky...

Writing Review:

Parallel-world fantasy with mystical components, Quicken Forbidden is at once engaging light adventure and deeper exploration of the themes of responsibility, chaos vs order, and the power of the individual to affect the world.

It's fun to watch Jax make puppy-eyes at her boyfriend and follow escaped rabbits through dimensional wormholes, yet it's also clear Jax is no angel: she has a tendency to take things which aren't hers. The character of Jax really shines throughout this book, though it's a shame the other characters haven't been fleshed out enough to seem real yet.

The plot through three issues has been complicated and somewhat over-full, but not so much it's unfollowable, nor so disconnected that it falls apart. A number of different plot elements have been thrown in at once, though, which can make it difficult to maintain reader interest when a book is as occasional as QF.

Art Review:

[ panel from Quicken Forbidden ] John's art is generally solid and expressive, though he's still learning. Occasionally, background faces are awkward and panel sizes and borders are occasionally jarring, but the storytelling is definitely there, with varied camera angles and nice action scenes. The use of Jax's glasses to occasionally "hide" her eyes is quite effective as well. He also handles the various locales (through the rift, in the office, at home, etc) with nice variety. All in all, a solid job that complements the light-adventure story.


Quicken Forbidden follows in the footsteps of Akiko, Pakkins' Land, and Skeleton Key and will satisfy their readers too, though it has a definitely darker edge. Fans of Lewis Carroll's "Alice In Wonderland" books will enjoy QF (especially with the many Alice references), as will people who enjoy films like "The Neverending Story" and "Warriors of Virtue". Try this one with readers of Galaxion, A Distant Soil, or Wandering Star, as well.

If you like Quicken Forbidden, take a look at:

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