By | Wednesday, July 02, 2008 2 comments
One of the things I like about following an artist's career is watching his/her style as an artist develop. Sometimes, that's a simple improvement in craft; sometimes, that's a more stylistic change. In the case of Miriam Libicki, I see some of both.

Although she now resides in Vancouver, Libicki spent a fair amount of time in the Israeli Army and her Jobnik stories retell some of her experiences there. According to her Jobnik Manifesto, "I don't see my comic... as an answer to Joe Sacco's Palestine. I see it as an answer to everybody. Everybody who thinks of Israelis as killing machines or innocent victims or the older brothers of Christ or the puppets of American policy. Everyone who asks me, 'You lived in Israel? What was that like?'" Reading that, I think it's plainly evident she's got a very powerful story to tell.

The story begins after Libicki's joined the Israeli Army and been classified as "overly emotional and possessing poor Hebrew skills." She's been assigned to an infirmary at a training base in a rather menial role as a file clerk. Issue #1 picks up as she's being introduced to the camp. Each issue tells its own story, but they follow in chronological order. The trap that many authors, when crafting their auto-biographies, fall into is that they tend to indulge in their own self-importance. I felt Marjane Satrapi did that with Persepolis 2. But so far, Libicki -- while the central character of the story -- presents herself more as a conduit for the reader as if to say, "This is what life is generally like over there, and I'm just pulling out my personal experiences as specific examples." There's more than a fair degree of humility on her part, and a great deal of sincerity.

In the few years Libicki's been working on Jobnik!, her stories have improved dramatically. Her earlier pieces, I felt, were rough and scratchy. Somewhat unsure of themselves. I think she felt obliged to ink her work, and her style of drawing isn't really conducive to it. (Not unlike Gene Colan's work.) She tries some computerized shading in #3 with mixed results. But 4 and 5 use a sort of wash effect that seems to work well. (I call it a "wash" but I'm fairly certain it's not an actual ink wash. I have to admit that I really don't know exactly how she achieved the look she did. Whatever it is, I hope she continues using it.)

Additionally, her figure work improves with each issue, as does her page and panel layouts. Her earlier work is a bit difficult to follow in places, but it gets easier to read with each issue. By #4, she even starts throwing in some clever page layouts to make more effective use of the space for the storytelling.

Libicki has previews of her issues on her web site, from which you can also order pulped wood copies of each issue. I don't think her work is going to really grab your attention and make you notice it right out of the gate, but there's definitely talent there and I think following it as it develops will lead to a satisfying payoff ultimately. Libicki's got a powerful story, as I said, and I think she's the best suited to telling it.
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Anonymous said...

wow! thanks for the review. i really regret, though, that due to the enormous suckitude of my website (it hasn't been updated in a year), you weren't able to learn that i've recently redrawn the entire first three issues, & combined all six issues to date into a graphic novel. it should be coming out next month, but i'd love to send you an advance copy if you think you might review it again.

the "wash" style is actually soft pencils, darkened in photoshop. it comes out grubbier than ink, but it's the most comfortable way i've found to draw.

robsalk said...

Jobnik is great and continues to improve, I agree. Personally I think Miriam's most interesting piece is an illustrated essay called "Towards a Hot Jew," (or something like that) which uses a different graphic technique altogether. I also think the idea of an illustrated essay on a topic like that gets points for originally, beyond even well-told autobiography.