1) The Pulse
The normal mainstream comic tropes of action/adventure and the indie ones of sex, violence and dysfunctional relationships are missing from Sara Varon's debut book. Three cheers for that. What you get instead is a delightful, beautiful drafted slant view of life. Take a look.
Man, this is a good book. Sara Varon's comics tend to be sweet and understated and suitable for all ages. The majority of the strips are sans dialogue, which makes them more accessible for younger readers and those who don't read English. I think this book is great for adults, but I'd definitely recommend considering it for a kid in your life. The stories illustrate friendship, generosity, flights of fancy, the changing of the seasons, cooperation and community - all without being preachy. Also, the educational angle is covered by a piece on a bee farm and now I want to go outside and see if I can tell the difference between a worker and a drone. The comics in this volume are charming and lots of fun, but what really pushes this over the top for me is the production and all the little extras. Inside you'll find some added color (including several pages of full-color ready-to-use postcards), an insert (a clever addition to one of the stories), lovely paper dolls (in color) and a page of cool two-color Chickenopolis postage stamps. Recommended? Without question.
SWEATERWEATHER is a work of outstanding quality and produced in an absolutely brilliant format. SWEATERWEATHER is a collection of short comics stories by Sara Varon, a little-known cartoonist who, none the less, contributed one of the stronger stand-alone stories in the generally-excellent ROSETTA anthology last year. With deceptively simple characters engaged in winter-related tales, SWEATERWEATHER will probably be one of the most accessible graphic novels of the year. Beyond that, the book itself is going to be a gorgeous one with Alternative Comics pulling out all of the design stops and producing sections in full colour or colour tones. All that, and it's only 12 bucks too. Even if you don't think you like "Alternative" comics, you're sure to be charmed by this project, as will (likely) many of the other non-comics reading folks in your life. Don't pass it up!"
I just wanted to add that having held the book, it is a beautifully produced work and marks an ever-growing trend in alt-comics to put out beautifullly produced books that should make larger publishers blush.
On the polar opposite end of the scale is Sara Varon's delightful Sweaterweather. Available from Alternative Comics, Sweaterweather comes across as sweet, good-natured and gentle in the best senses of those words. It's a fun tour through a world where snowmen walk, friends help one another through small, simple gestures, and a pie-eating contest ribbon might be the best prize of all. Varon fills the book with marvelous touches. She's got paper dolls and postcards of the cast, and there's one whole chapter that's essentially a lesson in beekeeping. It's a far cry from thee dark, action-flavored stories that I normally prefer, and yet I really enjoyed thentire package. This is something that you might recommend to fans of Good-bye, Chunky Rice or Bone. It's also a book that can enjoyed by a wide variety of ages and audiences. Varon's constructed a nice unassuming winner of a comic here, and it deserves some high praise.
Considering that summer is coming along nicely in much of the Northern hemisphere, it seems a little odd that SWEATERWEATHER, with its wintry cover and cosy-sounding title, should come out now. Still, it should sell well to those looking for a breath of cool fresh air. A collection of previously published and new works by Sara Varon, SWEATERWEATHER sells itself as an all-ages book. I can definitely see the appeal - kids will enjoy the boldly drawn, odd short stories with their cute protagonists - not to mention the postcards, paperdolls and stamps - while grown-ups will get a kick out of accomplished storytelling and art, especially if they enjoy the likes of PULPATOON PILGRIMAGE, GOODBYE, CHUNKY RICE and James Kochalka's work. That said, Varon's appealing style is very much her own. This looks as though it could easily charm the socks off you. [German Bight]
This is another well-produced, handsome-looking book: color covers and some inside pages too, good paper, the book has a solid feel. It is also cute as hell.
Varon draws with fluid, strong lines. Her animals, the little person, and the snow man are all whimsical, yet avoid being nauseatingly cute. The cat walking around with hands jammed in his pockets, when you know really he doesn't have hands or pockets, is an example of this, and it really works. The lettering also looks nice and works well with the art: carefully (but not too carefully) hand written in normal sentence case.
There is a quirky magic to Varon's stories. In one, a turtle and rabbit get caught out in the snow, so they both crawl inside the turtle's shell. Another reveals the symbiotic relationship of a snowman and a hibernating bear. The book also comes with fun extras: a set of fake stamps, full-color pages that you can clip into postcards, and full-color paper dolls to cut out. The paper dolls even have "insides": you can't see them once they are folded in half (so they have a printed front and back) but before then you can see one has a skeleton, others have hearts, or food in their stomachs. I thought it was a nice touch: the book is full of little details like that.
This all-ages comic is highly recommend for fans of cute and quirky comics (Kochalka fans take note) and would also be good for getting younger kids interested in comics.
Sara Varon is probably not a familiar name to most comic book readers. I'd never encountered her work until last year's anthology Rosetta, but I found myself already hoping to see more of her comics before too long. Sometimes it's almost like Alternative Comics's publisher Jeff Mason is hovering over my shoulder and taking notes at moments like that, because now we've got Varon's first graphic novel, Sweaterweather, collecting a great deal of her works to date.
Sweaterweather is a series of short stories, where the only real link is Varon's sensibilities that come across in her work. Cute animals and people walk down the street side-by-side, competing in pie-eating contests, worrying about making higher rent payments, and generally just leaving their lives. Sweaterweather is definitely an all-ages book that really meets those requirements; I think adults are going to find the skill and craft displayed here just as enjoyable as younger readers. Take, for instance, Varon's 26-panel story where each panel in order is related to a letter of the alphabet. Younger readers will find it a fun story and try to pick out how each letter is represented. On the other hand, adults will better appreciate how Varon put the story together to follow this alphabetical pattern, while still seeing the amusement in the events of the story themselves. Adults, if anything, will probably better appreciate some of the stories like the one where the racoon has to sacrifice some prized possessions to have some needed money. While children will certainly understand what's going on, it's an adult sensibility that tells a story of giving up parts of one's past in order to have a brighter future.
Varon's art just makes me keep thinking what a perfect name Sweaterweather is, because it's as soft and comforting as a favorite sweater. There's a children's storybook quality to her creatures, with her thick ink lines and friendly-looking creations. Perhaps the greatest strength of Varon's art, though, is her ability to make anything seem perfectly reasonable. One doesn't even bat an eye when a rabbit is able to climb inside a turtle's shell to seek shelter from the snow, or when a cat is able to use special feathers to fly through the sky. It all just looks natural without a break in style or form from Varon.
Last but not least, I was really impressed with the production design of Sweaterweather. This is one gorgeous looking book, with its usage from time to time with two-color and full-color sections. That's not the only nice touch to the book, though. Everything's been thought out very carefully here, from one page being a small "flyer" inserted into the book, to the special postcards, stamps, and paper dolls that you can snip out of the back of the book, each page was conceived as an entity in its own right and treated accordingly. Even the cover is great, with a great feel to the cover stock and the shiny ink that I kept rubbing my fingers over its surface. Varon's debut book has a gorgeous charm about it, and I can't imagine someone not falling just as in love with Sweaterweather as I have. Sweaterweather is on sale now at better comic book stores everywhere.