The Internet has fundamentally changed humanity.
Wait, no. That’s out scope. Let me zoom in here.
The Internet has fundamentally altered the way that we absorb sequential art. In the case of Bandage, this is definitely true, but not in the way we’d necessarily expect.
Artist/writer Kate Glasheen has put together a true physical artifact, something that would be out of place on the Internet. However, it wouldn’t exist save for Kickstarter, the crowd-sourcing website that we love. In March of 2011, Kate successfully completed Bandage, and it became this gorgeous black obelisk that I have in front of me.
The book is a hardcover, and is sized slightly larger and thicker than a traditional graphic novel. It’s cover is a shiny black, showcasing my numerous fingerprints all over it. It’s completely black, save for the logo and subhead, and the barcode/ISBN information on the back. The logo--a bandage, with the words written in what appears to be healing wounds (including really sickening green and yellow stains)--stands out in a similarly reflective, glossy format. This glossy cover is not going to hide your fingerprints whatsoever, which may or may not (depending on your interpretation of the story, and your willingness to overthink things) add to the overall theme and feeling of the story. The inner pages are made a of a very similar material, and will hide your fingerprints as poorly.
The layout of Bandage is definitely non-traditional. Each left side of a two page spread is black, featuring white letters (in a typeface that is reminiscent of a typewriter, running low on ink), while its opposite is a greyscale illustration. The words are less prose and more poetry, and the story paces itself at a strange (but not in any way negative) rate. The characters transition through seasons, and we see them change... in as much as you can decode.
I will admit, I didn’t really get the plot on the first read through. Like any good surreal comic, I was determined to see the thread of the narrative in this book. After finishing it, I definitely liked it - enough to read it again, clearly--but I didn’t really understood what happened from page to page. So, I decided to read it again. After my second read through... still, didn’t have much of an idea of the plot. Vague notions of romance, stagnancy, disconnect... but not a plot.
It wasn’t until I read it a third time that something really amazing happened; I began unlocking the narrative with bits of my own existence and memory. Suddenly, the themes had a context that I hadn’t noticed before: mine. As I began really absorbing the words without worry for carrying a plot, I found one. I took each page as an individual artifact, and the entire story opened up to me. I have no idea if this was intentional on the part of Kate (how could it be? How could you plan for this?) but it was definitely a memorable moment. Now, not only was I in tune with the story, but I was intimately familiar with it. Reading it now is like looking through a year book.
The art is wild and jagged, representative and edged. The style is one I prefer--something rough and edgy, emotional, emotive. This style is presented in completely surrealist frames, interweaving literal pictures of the characters with surrealist representations. I am struggling to accurately describe this art, and I’ve already well and truly used my budget of “surreal” and “representative” for one review. It was weird. I liked it.
If you’re interested in an independent and experimental piece of sequential art, look no further. I imagine your experience with it will differ than mine, which may or may not be the point. Without all the high minded context, it is a truly enjoyable thing, something I am happy to have on my shelf.
TL;DR Bandage is a non-traditional masterpiece. Marinade in a few readings before trying to parse. Flavor to taste.
You should also check out Kate's website to see more of her work. She's a cool lady who makes cool things.
A review copy of Bandage was graciously provided to Spandexless by the author.