Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.
By Brandy Dykhuizen. The tipping point. The four of spades that topples the tower of cards; the one touch too much that sinks your paper boat; the final drop that constitutes a sea change; the passing of a Starman. Humanoids’ upcoming anthology illustrates that one moment by which all else becomes measured. Thirteen world-class writers come together to pen and illustrate their versions of that axis in time. From the more literal and relatable to the abstract and deeply existential, The Tipping Point steers us around the world and around ourselves to show us how even the most seemingly insignificant acts have the power to redraw paths.
Of the more overtly moving and true-to-life entries are Emmanuel Lepage’s The Awakening and John Cassaday’s Huckleberry Friend (which lodged “Moon River” firmly into my once head again as I typed those words – thanks, Mr. Cassaday!). Lepage had me at the first four panels, amidst prepubescent atchoo-ing over edelweiss and columbine, on the periphery of an alpine summer camp. It’s the enduring story of an awkward, friendless child, forced into socialization by well-meaning parents who somehow always forget how awkward, friendless children are treated by their peers. The tipping point arrives right before the last day of camp, that frantic period of scrambling to wrangle a first kiss or last make-out session before heading back home to relative anonymity. Lepage’s gorgeous ink and watercolor do well to convey the fluidity with which some minor bullying transforms into a sexual awakening. Cassaday, however, recounts ol’ Huck Finn’s moral crisis in verse and dramatic black and white. Pages full of stark silhouettes of Spanish moss and delta mud, boldly, clearly express that in matters of race, you’re either with or against. There is no idle grey area in progress.
However, it’s not all inner turmoil and self-awareness between these covers. Color me impressed by how carefully curated this anthology is. The Tipping Point boasts a thoughtfully selected variety in style – thirteen contributors, several of whom are heavy-hitters, some who bring a pile of Eisners to the table, and not one whose art echoes another’s. Each contributor riffed on the theme in vastly different ways. We have a hard-edged pop piece from Atsushi Kaneko revolving around Yakuza and a nuclear holocaust; an Eddie Campbell story about the loss of a pet whilst moving, relies heavily on collage and imagination; and a Boulet bit about the vastness of the Internet (and wouldn’t ya know – everything you read online is true!).
It is no hyperbole to say that every single entry into this anthology is thoroughly enjoyable. There are a couple I found somewhat confusing, but even the one that baffled me entirely (see: Keiichi Koike’s Fish) kept drawing me back, far past the point of admitting defeat on the comprehension front. The art is so alluring – each face is enormously expressive and the transition of color and details from page to page is a story on its own – that the fact my tiny brain is ill-equipped to deal with psychedelic, otherworldly, cross-species rebirth became completely secondary to the enjoyment of the piece.
There’s also a lot of humor to be found in the frayed wires. Bob Fingerman takes us on a walk with a fat atheist , whose burger-coma places him in a transcendent state, envisioning the afterlife. After a long stroll around Hell (entered via a DMV waiting room in which everyone is naked) and a quick tour of heaven (where we learn that clouds serve a singular purpose as vehicles for blowjobs), our protagonist falls into an epiphany that maybe the afterlife ain’t so bad indeed (but fear not, dear Atheists – it doesn’t end there!).
If these vignettes are a fair sampling of our collective tipping points (and I do believe they are), then we are a society full of folks who measure their identities against awakenings, moral compasses, and fear (of loss, of the end of days, or simply of being wrong). Suspending the narrative to explore these precise moments is a brilliant study of humanity. The Tipping Point is, without a doubt, required reading. And what better time to release an exploration of beginnings than right in-between the Western and Chinese New Years?