anthology of mind Reviews 

“The Anthology of Mind: Selected Short Stories”

By | September 16th, 2019
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

What is a comic? If you ask someone who hasn’t read many comics, they might say something about superheroes. If you ask someone who knows too much about comics, they’ll probably try to quote Scott McCloud and mumble something about the juxtaposition of a pictorial sequence. But beyond the contents and the form, comics have features, like panels. Tommi Musturi creates comics, in this anthology spanning two decades and filled with his deliberately-variable style and angry artwork, you know you are always reading a comic because they all have panels.

By Tommi Musturi

Tommi Musturi hates the entrapment of style, and the different short comics in this book wander widely. But it’s impossible to read an anthology that spans 18 years and not see patterns and taxonomies.

Musturi likes to use angry, expressionist drawings inside of very clear panels. He has a strong sense of wild color (so much so that I’m assuming he has an academic background in fine art). Other times his lines are super clean, like “Dark & Stormy,” which is as clean and wordless as an Ikea instruction manual, and the very cover to this collection, which looks inspired by Murakami. But even in those we have clear panels. The closest he comes to dropping the clean grid is in “45 Revolutions Per Minute,” which is a groups of small circular panels telling a simple poem.

(Fun note: In my review copy this story is mistakenly called, “45 Rounds Per Minute” in the table of contents, which in my American mind made me initially think it was about gun violence.)

In spite of Musturi’s chameleon comic stylings, the comics in this collection are well grounded, even if that grounding is mostly in the fact that he draws panels, and the panels are read in order. The art is almost one hundred percent representational, which makes the stories clear, even when they are more like free verse poetry. The furthest we stray from that is in “Waiting for Superman,” a brightly colored, abstract comic. But even here are clean panels. (That and the fact that it’s based on an old Superman comic.)

Except for the first story, “To The Far Shore,” this collection rarely descends into the absolute surrealism of someone like Hans Rickheit. Tommi Musturi creates comics that are emotional, playful, and angry, but grounded.

Musturi does experiment with the form of comics quite a lot. But does so while remaining inside simple panel grids.

In his one-page story, “What Is This,” a man is mad at the comic he’s in, and in each panel he gets angrier and angrier about some feature in the comic, until he eventually points at the read in red-faced anger. It’s a metafictional comic, but one that doesn’t rely on the normal metafictional comic conceit of having the character literally stepping out of the panels. Musturi does it all with only the content. (Although he does pull that trick just once in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in “Snake in the Nose.”)

“The Black Matter” may not be strictly metafictional, but it looks like he created his own surreal “heroes journey” by dropping pictures randomly and captioning each one. (If there’s ever a time to talk about “the juxtaposition of a pictorial sequence,” this is the comic to do it for.)

Musturi also plays with removing dialog but keeping empty word balloons, like in the absurd “Moving,” and in the superhero parody “Pat Pending.” That latter one is the story of a giant penis superhero.

(“The Anthology of Mind” does contain some of the usual male adolescent themes you see in every underground comic. Lots of penises, and lots of violence, which is bloodless unless it’s against women.)

Tommi Musturi does have some lighthearted stories too, like the woodcut-inspired “How to Avoid Panic,” and the weirdly cute “Friendship.”

Through all of this, Musturi’s style is one grounded in the usual grammar of comics: panels, dialog balloons, captions. It’s a very modernistic in his story telling. His stories are small, and filled with strong imagery, and often focused on small moments in life. This grounding makes “The Anthology of Mind” an unusually readable comic.

I’m going to finish this review by talking about my favorite comics in this anthology.

Continued below

    1. “To The Far Shore” opens this collection, and the story travels from fairly understandable magic realism and eventually descends into surrealism. It’s the the best introduction to Tommi Musturi that you’re going to find here, and I’m happy it’s first.
    1. “The Finnish Destroyer” it’s an angry story told in an unkempt orgy of expressionistic artwork, but its smart use of warm and cool colors makes it easy to follow.
    1. “On the Sea” is simple fable of man versus the ocean, a very primal theme.
    1. “Mickey Murder” a clean (visually, not content-wise) and wordless comic about Mickey Mouse.

Justin McGuire

The most important comics in my life were, in order: assorted Archies bought from yard sales, Wolverine #43 - Under The Skin, various DP7, Death of Superman, Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, Sandman volume 1, Animal Man #5 - The Coyote Gospel, Spent.