You know the old saying — “change is the only constant.” Yet most changes are slow and inexorable things that occur over protracted periods of time, barely visible at all from moment to moment. You likely don’t notice if you put on ten pounds over the course of a couple of months, for instance, but a friend who sees you at the beginning of those couple of months and again at the end will likely be biting their tongue to prevent themselves from saying “hey, looks like you’ve gained a little weight” — unless you’ve got friends like mine, that is.
One of the nice things about cartooning, though, is that it can be used to fuck with time, even absent the stereotypical “Later—” caption box. Events that occur over the course of a few panels can translate to mere moments of “real time,” or to several months. The clock and the calendar are well and truly just grist for the artist’s sequential storytelling mill — all of which brings us to Ryan Alves’ self-published 2014 mini Moments With Mo’Peaches.
Simply and ingeniously formatted as a series of three-panel “gags” displaying transformations, metamorphoses, and transmogrifications large or small that either happen to, or are engendered by the actions of, our vaguely monstrous protagonist Mr. Peaches, they’re all good for a chuckle on the surface, but scratch beneath it and you’ll see some ambitious formal experimentation taking place right before your eyes. That’s because the act of confining himself to a rigid and unyielding structure gives Alves plenty of creative freedom to explore the narrative intricacies of said structure, and to press his metaphorical “fast forward” button either once or twice. Everything here is a progression, but how rapid a progression we’re talking about changes from strip to strip as surely as the primary colors Alves utilizes for each of them. It’s a wild ride — or, rather, series of rides — that he’s taking us on here, but at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all pretty standard stuff.
Which, I guess, on the one hand it is — but teasing out the inherent complexities of the most basic “Cartooning 101” exercise is perhaps what Alves is aiming to do here. I’m not a qualified mind-reader by any stretch of the imagination, but speaking as someone who tries his level best to engage fully with any work, what I can say is that the effect of these short wordless yarns, especially when viewed in succession with a deliberately blank page between each, is to establish a very definite rhythm that goes something like “status quo, big change, new normal,” followed by a “hard” break to take in what’s just happened before moving on to the next oddball scenario. It’s a little weird, but it works — as do the strips themselves.
As the images included with this review make plain, this is also a horizontally-formatted publication, and while this decision may have been nothing so much as a practical consideration, it also plays into the overall experience by lending the proceedings a kind of fluidity that, let’s face it, a “two panels with one below” or “one panel with two below” vertical orientation would necessarily lose. Breaking up that flow with an empty reverse side to every page certainly breaks that flow, but again, within a couple of pages this establishes itself as part of the overall rhythm of the work. It’s a curious enough choice on Alves’ part, admittedly, but I’d be lying if I said it was anything less than utterly effective.
Which isn’t a bad way to summarize the entire project, really. Maybe it shouldn’t work, or maybe it’s such a stripped-down exercise that it can’t help but work, but at the end of the day who am I to quibble with the fact that it does? Likewise, while it could be fairly argued that I may be overthinking this whole thing, I can just as easily see a case to be made for the proposition that I haven’t thought about it enough. I’m not gonna split hairs — all I know is that this unassuming little ‘zine does precisely what it set out to do. Whatever that may be.
I’m not sure where — or even if — prospective readers can obtain a copy of Moments With Mo’Peaches, nor do I have any clue as to its price, but a good place to start would probably be by heading over to Ryan Alves’ website, which is htttp://livinginmethane.weebly.com
Review wrist check – Squale “1521 Onda” aqua blue dial model riding a Zodiac camo caoutchouc rubber NATO-style field strap.