Skuds McKinley funded this book through Kickstarter, and I donated. I honestly had no real reason besides hopefully helping out a young cartoonist. I held no expectations for the eventual book I would receive, nor did I really even care if the book ever saw print. I just felt generous at the time, and Skuds' project just happened to appear on my screen after a few clicks of the mouse. Now, I'm sitting at my oily keyboard preparing to tell you all about I'll Take You to the Moon and Leave You There Volume 1, and I'll begin by typing "it's a nice portfolio from which the reader gathers a base of idea of what one up-and-coming cartoonist can offer."
Skuds may not appreciate my use of the word portfolio as he does attempt a thematic expression, but I feel from front to back cover this comic supplies more of a sampling of an artist than the delivery of any particular idea. Certain stories connect, but ultimately the book stands as an anthology of material which covers a generous area of genres and concepts. And I find that completely OK. It honestly makes a lot of sense for a new artist to put something like this out. As I typed, it's a sampler.
McKinley brings grotesque and "slice-of-life"/autobiographical elements together to achieve a certain, unavoidable notion of pain and torment in his work. I'll Take You to the Moon features multiple stories in which the lead character falls subject to personal trauma. None of it feels alien, necessarily. Much of it, whether drug addiction, relationship pains or deceased parents, affects numerous people in their everyday lives, but McKinley's emphasis on the conflicts through parasitic demons or surreal trips to the moon make his stories a little heavier. We all understand the pain of losing a loved one, but McKinley wants us to experience it all over again, as if it were the first time, so he illustrates these foul shapes and textures to encourage discomfort For the most part, I found the technique effective, and it even managed to dig up thoughts of Basil Wolverton's work. I wouldn't call the approach completely original, but McKinley uses it well enough to make it his own and define his apparent style.
Where McKinley gets a bit heavy handed is in his inks. He carries a very dark, solid, liquid line throughout the book, and most of the time I feel McKinley keeps it neat enough, while simultaneously being "sloppy," that it benefits the work. But there are moments, like in both "Hunting Elahwa" and "Egg Hunt," in which McKinley attempts more of a genre-type story, that the inks overstep their boundaries and hinder the reader from understanding what exactly is happening in specific panels. Which hurts, especially since no dialogue or narration is implemented throughout these shorts and the storytelling relies completely on the visuals. However, the book's panel compositions and page layouts hold to a solid standard and work very well. One short in particular, "Milk," supplies quite a punch in only a 4 panel, one page throw, and it really manages to sum up a general theme of the entire book - that two good things brought together will ultimately result in destruction. Of course, McKinley later goes on to make the point through use of a relationship rather than cookies and milk.
Overall, I enjoyed this comic, but I will say I'll Take You to the Moon lacks a necessary authority I would like to see in it. At moments, I was able to sink into the pages and completely hear what it was McKinley was telling me, but at other times I found myself skimming the surface, remembering I found this from an upstart on Kickstarter. Pure confidence can go a long way in a work's impact, and I think McKinley lacks some of that here. But, the guy's 22; he's young and new. I'm sure if he keeps at it a confidence and authority will come. For now, it seems Skuds McKinley has potential to be an interesting enough cartoonist worth paying attention to.
TL;DR I'll Take You to the Moon and Leave You There Volume 1 is a nice portfolio from which the reader gathers a base of idea of what one up-and-coming cartoonist can offer.
I'll Take You to the Moon and Leave You There Volume 1 was written and drawn by Skuds McKinley. The book was self-published. For more information on Skuds McKinley and to buy a copy of his book, check out his website.