Skyway Sleepless [Small Press]
Skyway Sleepless (Uncivilized Books): This is an easy book to like. Tom Kaczynski examines man’s desire to live in the future, something of a counterpoint to the hipster doofus smart-ass who attempts to decry their present with “Where is my flying car?!” in a state of feigned indignation, ironically doing so from their consumer-priced handheld microcomputer, which is connected to a global information network. Kaczynski clangs together a bunch of influences, his fascination with structure, his tendency toward perspective emphasis (both literal vanishing points on the page and more figurative notions for our society), and a sense of offbeat speculative sci-fi, all converging in comics. This short originally appeared in Twin Cities Noir, and is about the titular “Skyways” as urban people movers, the endless human superhighway that fuels the cities of the future. With the introduction of Professor Ecke, there’s the hint of class system division between the upper and lower levels of the Skyway. As we discover the protagonist’s role as Skyway Security, it’s easy to extend one of the themes to the balance between personal freedoms and security, all overlaid with aesthetic concerns of the would-be artists involved in the project. I’ve often had a kind of corollary thought as a security guy. For example, most of today’s airports were built pre-9/11. It would be interesting to design a new airport from the ground up, with security in mind as a core philosophical tenet, but to actually make it aesthetically appealing. Anyway, for me, there were a couple very minor visual glitches in the art (the arms of the prof seem inconsistent, and I didn’t care for a text heavy blob he exposited), but those gripes aside, I really enjoyed this as an exercise in predictive crimes as art. Kaczynski’s lines are beautiful at this figure scale. They’re very expressive, but also quite realistic. When the armed Feds arrive, I had this rush of desire to see all-out action comic from Kaczynski, like a cop noir book, he may have a hidden knack for that genre(!). There’s an undercurrent of mystery in Skyway Sleepless, a sense of the unforeseen foreboding complications that can arise with any social project. It’s safe to say that I liked Skyway Sleepless the moment I glanced at it (and ultimately it seems to ask the worthy question of whether there can ever be an end state to innovation), but I grew to love it by the time there’s a shared kiss in the spaces between things, a stolen moment of messy intimacy amid all the clean sterility of the future. Kaczynski cleverly captures the weightlessness of the emotional state and the literal weightless status on the skyway; it’s a sharp visual expression of the erotic freneticism of the moment. Grade A.