BodyWorld by Drew Shaw

BodyWorld
Dash Shaw
Pantheon Books, 2010

Something of a benchmark for webcomics repackaged for print, this 384 page book is printed in an unusual vertical landscape format, which means the pages turn like a calendar. It also has two maps you can fold out for handy reference, the title printed in fluorescent ink along the edge of the pages, and a holographic cover. Shiny!

The artwork is unattractive and somewhat stiff, but that’s irrelevant to the story, which is set in 2060 for no particular reason, and concerns an unlikeable rogue botanist who travels to a small town called Boney Borough to investigate the discovery of a new plant (which might come from outer space) and turns out to have telepathic properties when smoked – as the town discovers when the botanist accidentally sets fire to the forest. Shaw seems to have been influenced by the sinewy lines of Gary Panter and the obsessive neatness of Chris Ware, and the story has many interesting experimental sequences involving hallucinations (aided by using Photoshop overlays) and an extraordinary sequence at the end when the action shifts to the New York of the future.

There’s lots of ideas in this book, and it preserves the spontaneity of a webcomic completed page-by-page to a regular deadline. The original comic is available online here, but the book is worth checking out for the quality of its construction.

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