Two From Joey Tepedino : “Star Kisses From The Queen”

“Just let it go” is easy enough advice to give to anyone who is, as the popular vernacular would have it, going through some shit, but it’s considerably more difficult to follow. And when tragedy has befallen a person, deciding what to let go of becomes all the more impossible to figure out. I have, for instance, known people who got rid of all of any and reminders of an ex after a breakup, only to wish they had something — anything — of theirs back later, while on the other side of the coin, I’ve known people who have lost a loved one who simply can’t bear to part with a single reminder of them, no matter how inconsequential or trivial some of the crap they left behind may seem to the outside observer.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, when it comes to traumatic experiences, there’s probably no “wrong” way to handle them, even if some methods of processing them are undeniably more healthy than others. Your brain is, after all, your own, and how you process bad things happening is going to vary a hell of a lot from person to person. Who are any of us to judge until we’ve been in precisely the same position?

Which brings us, finally, to our real reason for being here : Joey Tepedino’s self-published mini Star Kisses From The Queen, a gorgeous and ambitious little ‘zine that functions as both mirror image of, and response to, his The Kingdom Of Rasberry Blue Untitled, and mines similar conceptual and thematic territory to a degree while nevertheless offering readers a wholly different experience. The most notable point of demarcation between the two works is that this one is partially presented in color while the other is entirely — and starkly — black and white, but really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While loss of self within the self is explored in this ‘zine as well as the previous (I think, at any rate — both works are undated) one, here that loss is part of a larger grieving process, with Tepedino’s protagonist figure (perhaps an authorial stand-in?) reeling from the death of someone close to them, all color literally draining from their world, all richness and intricacy giving way to unforgiving and austere simplicity. But soon enough complex, if foreboding, imagery returns to the fold, as do snippets of fiery color, and a kind of tension arises, as readers are left to ponder whether the dark void will solidify its claim on our erstwhile “hero,” or if he’ll integrate the pain he’s experienced into his life in such a way that allows for small steps of forward progress to be made. Hell, maybe both things will happen?

Don’t let its gloriously experimental nature fool you, however : this is very much a comic anchored by narrative, it just so happens that the pacing of that narrative is inventive, original, and quite authentic in terms of its representation of the grieving process. Jarring and potentially momentous occurrences pop up unexpectedly only to dissipate just as quickly, and instances of calm and perhaps even peace — or at the very least resignation — alternate between bursts of heavy and alarming visual/emotional peril. It’s all got a strange fluidity to it, with the emphasis on the “strange,” but anyone who’s lost someone can tell you that’s how the mind works when confronted with these situations : one minute you can maybe live with it, the next you’d sooner be dead yourself. Logic is out the window, but for entirely logical reasons, and Tepedino’s singular storytelling methodology reflects that dichotomy incredibly well.

In the end, then, what we’ve got here is something that both functions as a perfect companion piece to Tepedino’s other comic, while also standing entirely on its own. In addition, it manages to straddle the delicate line between avant-garde “art” comics and traditional, narratively-driven ones in a manner that should appeal to readers of both — all while grappling with difficult subject matter. It’s a highly accomplished piece of work that’s certain to impress you, no matter your sensibilities or aesthetic preferences.

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Star Kisses From The Queen is available for $5.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/starkisses.html

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