Michael DeForge: Ant Colony

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Ant Colony, the new graphic novel by Adventure Time character designer Michael DeForge, is a darkly funny meditation on demands a community places on the individual. It has some of that show’s whimsical weirdness, but with a delightfully unfiltered id. Its narrative is told through the lens of abused children, insane fathers, corrupt police officers and misanthropes who just want more out of life—all of whom, by the way, are ants. (There are also some bees, who may be incredibly helpful to the ants scurrying below them or just doing their own quasi-religious, semi-prophetic bee-thing. It’s hard to tell. Bees are weird.) The story spans several ants as they get ripped out of their secure lives in the colony by forces beyond their control. Unjust wars, unwelcome prophetic visions, unexpected deaths and basic relationship ennui slowly meld together, forcing the main characters into a makeshift community that doesn’t appear to be any more stable than the one that fell apart on them. But DeForge’s deft sense of humor keeps Ant Colony from wallowing in its own existential misery.

Rather than stick to any sort of biological fidelity, DeForge illustrates Ant Colony in a deeply metaphorical way, adding to its dream-state vibe. The ants’ internal organs are visible, making them as literally transparent as their hopes and dreams. The ant queen is beautifully grotesque. Spiders have the faces of cartoon dogs, all teeth and crazy eyes. A female ant introduced late in the story is drawn as human, which manages to be both visually jarring and make her brief back story instantly relatable. All of this is rendered in a children’s-book-bright pallet with dense, uncompromising pools of black ink.

There’s a creeping terror to Ant Colony from page one, and those swaths of black underscore it in every panel. Adult fans of Adventure Time and David Sedaris’s animal stories will find lots to love in this book, as will connoisseurs of black humor and surrealist imagery. And the author’s launching it at Locust Moon tonight.

But just what were those bees up to? Bees are weird. / JARED AXELROD

Wed., Feb. 12. 7pm. Free. Locust Moon Comics, 34 S. 40th St. 267.403.2856. locustmoon.com
 

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Recurring: ONCE

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