Surveying The Habitat

Habitat #2 (Sparkplug Comic Books): This issue marks Dunja Jankovic’s follow-up to Department of Art #1, which I previously reviewed at Poopsheet Foundation. The recurring theme from issue to issue seems to be Jankovic arguing against the banality of a typical middle class existence and aspiring for something more unique and meaningful. It always seems obvious to me when a creator comes from a fine arts background and ventures into comics vs. a person who starts in comics and that skill set becomes the extent of their influences. The differences are apparent aesthetically with the painterly affects, the way the artist stages panels, and there’s generally an abstract quality to Jankovic’s work that even calls to mind some of the modern masters who worked in the field of abstract expressionism. What I admire the most about this approach is that it never veers into stodgy pretention; it’s pleasing to the eye, but not so challenging a composition that you can’t clearly interpret the actions or the meaning. It’s all very accessible despite the sophisticated attributes that it sometimes flaunts.

Jankovic isn’t just concerned with fine arts though, there’s plenty of room for the art of “comics making.” There’s an early full page title sequence that harkens back to Will Eisner’s Spirit, with the letters of the title becoming buildings and an embedded cityscape for the characters to inhabit, their habitat as it were. At its best, Jankovic’s art achieves imagery that is haunting and lasting, particularly the eyes floating in negative space that bring so much life to the black and white environs, or the superbly managed disintegration sequence which utilizes a mixed media collage that breaks existence down into its constituent parts. The narrative shows us how sometimes in life pragmatic concerns guide our actions (like how to pay the rent), rather than being fueled by listening to our desires and following our true passions in life. The collection of the rent becomes just one small representation of the various social strata in society. There’s always a “bigger fish” that can come collecting no matter your status, and whether you’re ant, rat, or human, all things exist on a relative scale of priority and supposed dominance. The true question plaguing us is how to break out of this societal pyramid scheme. Jankovic suggests ultimately that being self-aware enough to attempt a reinvention of yourself instead of drowning in the overwhelming mundane might be an out. I say find what you love doing and then get paid to do it, and you can probably help this creator do just that by purchasing the book. Grade A.


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