We're All Real Basketspaces
Space Basket (Domino Books): As I sat through the Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con this year, I remember having a stray thought about the butterfly effect when we all learned that Bill Blackbeard was voted into the Eisner Hall of Fame. Without someone like Bill Blackbeard’s influence, you see, there probably wouldn’t have been someone like Dylan Williams and Sparkplug Comic Book, and without someone like Dylan Williams and his vision, we probably wouldn’t have gotten someone like Austin English and Domino Books, and without Domino Books, there probably wouldn’t be an accessible creative outlet for something like Space Basket by Jonathan Petersen. With that anecdotal preamble out of the way, I can tell you that Space Basket is the best kind of experiment. Petersen uses a thick syrupy line weight that creates an overall aesthetic which almost gives you the impression the art is being done in a woodcut style. I mean, really, some of the panel borders are literally a quarter-inch thick in spots, loaded with luscious black. I love the way that the creator unabashedly slathers the page with ink. It’s done to the point that some of the words are crammed so tight into the panels that they appear to be fighting objects for precious real estate, one seeking dominance over the other. It’s almost as if Petersen is subconsciously contending with whether the writing or the art is the more important aspect of the medium. That tension is perhaps reflected in the ways that all the disparate characters seem to be competing for attention, direction, satisfaction in their lives, or the right sense of self, of self-image and self-perception, as they wander out from the lodge of life for this mysterious meandering adventure. The story bounces from somewhat straight narrative to a more stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling and shifts protagonists by introducing and shedding characters at will in a very non-traditional way. I enjoyed the unique effort of that willingness to discard one's own creative output. My only real gripe with the work is that there’s some punctuation missing; maybe it’s intentional, but it’s still jarring to my editorial eye as it hits some of my personal pet peeves. The lettering often uses “its” or “lets” or “your” when it needs “it’s” or “let’s” or “you’re” respectively. Though the book’s ultimate point may be a little elusive despite the brisk pace and fun ride, what I like the most about Space Basket is how it wrestles with perception. It’s a world where roads can be mistaken for rivers, bottles of urine for bottles of rum, bananas for shovels, or the intentions of a man in a van are deceptive. In a world where we’ve all become so desensitized to violence, anger, or depression, a world where two mass shootings can occur in a month, a world where 60 billion dollars would fund a Mars Colony, but we spend 4 trillion on a largely pointless set of wars instead, in this harsh world, we are reminded how shocking something as the beautiful simplicity of a basket of fresh fruit can be. It’s always something so small, some subtle realization that can alter our own course in life. Grade A-.