John Layman. Sam Kieth. We kind of knew the potential here. Comedic strangeness with an addictive quality matched with ethereal strangeness that challenges the comics medium. And we get one of the wackiest comics ever born, at least in recent years, with Eleanor & The Egret, out from Aftershock Comics this week in its first issue.
Ostensibly, the plot seems to be about art heists, and Eleanor and her Egret’s involvement in them, but how we get there is just as important. And that’s through wandering, sinuous panels, asides, sudden unexpected scenes, and the ambiguous guardedness of this heist team. Who is Eleanor and how on earth is there an Egret who can alter his beak to open locks, carry a human around in flight, and hide out in a backpack? You’ll forget to ask those questions because you’ll be watching Kieth’s morphing artwork and little extras in caption signage from Layman and Kieth that point to inside jokes and give the whole comic a comedic feel.
The colors by Ronda Pattison also help contribute to a tone and mood that feels a little like underground comix, a little like illustration work, and a lot like nothing else on the stands right now. Kieth’s emphasis on very specific facial expressions in a cartoony, caricature-like way, his chosen moments for movement and detail, are just exceptionally odd and interesting.
We’re dealing with a modern fairy-tale of sorts here, many of which traditionally feature a magical animal or helper, who unbenownst to the world enable their chosen patron to accomplish seemingly miraculous tasks. There’s Puss in Boots, for example, and even going back to medieval lore, there’s a story about a multi-colored fairy puppy dog who enables people to jump around in space and time. This is made even more entertaining by the fact that Ellis, the Egret, can talk. And he’s no intellectual genius so far, but he is very specifically given a personality. More than just a fowl-ex-machina, he’s a sidekick, or maybe even the star, alongside Eleanor.
We know virtually nothing about these two, except they pull off crazy art heists in Paris. The time and place settings remain vague, but modern security systems blend this magic realism into a recognizable world. But it doesn’t matter that we don’t yet know–the special qualities of the story will reel you in. Look out for those little comments and in-jokes which turn comic art into an even more interactive experience than usual.
So, put Eleanor & The Egret on your list of “Comics I should be reading” and make room for something very different in comics that will surprise you with every page.