One Punch Reviews #83: Ant Comic
The Eisner nominees for Best Digital Comic often include some absolutely bizarre entries that look like they were done under some sort of chemical influence. I think Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld may have been one of them, but the geometry-based digressions, while challenging from the standpoint of linear storytelling, were so lucid it makes me doubt my assessment. Still, the webcomic itself was about smoking drugs, so I think it fits in some way. The thing about these sorts of comics is that the writer can wave away inconsistencies, plot holes, and artistic decisions under the catch-all excuse of “Just not getting it.” Which isn’t entirely untrue. But still!
Here’s what you need to know about Michael DeForge’s Ant Comic: the first sequence shows a depiction of two homosexual ants having sex. The second shows some ants marching into a giant ant vagina.
I was tempted to put up an NSFW tag, but I think most curious co-workers looking over your shoulder would have an impossible time figuring out what was going on. Still, probably not something you’d want to recommend for your kids.
DeForge designs his ants — the black ant variety, anyway — as Adventure Time-style cartoon characters. They have soft round bodies and pleasant noseless faces. Their bodies are also see-though, so you can see their digestive organs. It would be gross, but it’s rendered in bright primary colors so it’s more like “Child’s First Digestive System Chart” than anything.
Anyway, these ants live in a very structured society inside an apple core. They must gather food and then, at the end of the day, get in line to impregnate the queen ant to spawn a new society of ants. Along the way, they think about their lot in life and how they’re pretty much stuck in a repetitive cycle. Eventually, things collapse, and a small group of ants sorta have to figure out how to jump start a new society… and they can’t really move forward since their knowledge is of no use at all. Even a little kid, blessed with the power of foresight, can’t help but be entirely useless.
They must also fend off the advances of spiders (who have dog faces, for some reason) and the red ants, who are drawn to look more like conventional ants. The red ants enjoy lapping up the fluid that the dog-face spiders excrete while copulating because … I don’t know. The often gruesome nature of the stories are masked by the bright, rainbow-colored aesthetics. How can you be grossed out when a young ant swallows a puree of an earthworm, which turns into microscopic earthworms when it’s absorbed into his body? It’s so adorable!
I’ve read it somewhere that the problem with modern poetry is that it emphasizes too much on writing down what the poet is feeling. Sure, it leads to an honest display of emotions, but the final product is so disjointed it often resembles someone trying to tell you a dream they were having: relevant to the teller, confusing and kinda boring for the listener. I get the same sensation while reading Ant Comic. I can spin a whole number of theories as to what DeForge was going for. However, since I suspect it was one of those intentionally vague things where the reader is supposed to decided the meaning, I still come away feeling a little empty about the entire enterprise. It even ends abruptly, with one of the characters going off on a philosophical tangent and then … credits.
Still, the aesthetics are equally nightmarish and childish, giving off that weirdo 70’s vibe that you expect to be scored to Earth, Wind, and Fire. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate this comic. Existentialist pieces like this do have a place in the world of webcomics and on the Eisner nominations ballot. Still, I have to concede to the fact that I’m just not gettin’ it.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).