If you want to see the bleeding edge of the comics medium, you need to be looking at the small and micro presses.
Last month I took my annual pilgrimage to Thought Bubble (not a long one, mind you - it's right on my doorstep), a comics convention with a heavy focus on independent creators. In the vast array of treasures on offer was What is Left by Minneapolis-based Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, exhibited by the lovely Zainab from Comics and Cola.
Let's just take a moment to oggle at the cover. The sumptuous purple with flecks of colour around the character's head is just gorgeous, and it gets better when you crack it open. Valero-O'Connell uses full pages to great effect to begin the book with the fluid line work flowing off the paper. Immediately you can see the art alone is worth the price of entry.
The central concept is glorious: a starship powered by memories. A volunteer would essentially become the fuel for the ship's engine. Occasionally this engine malfunctions, causing the ship to collapse in on itself. However, for whatever reason the one presented in the book explodes, taking a lone ship-worker with it. She is cast into a sea of memories, enveloped in the subconscious of the volunteer, a young woman she admits to having never really spoken to. What follows is a series of powerful images where we explore the pains, tribulations and toils of growing up and finding your place on the work (or, indeed, universe).
Valero-O'Connell's art is atmospheric, fluid and beautiful. If you think her characters are right out of Stephen Universe, you wouldn't be far off the mark as the writer-artist created the graphic novel cover for the popular cartoon.
What is Left is a moving book framed by a high concept with a lot of heart. I can't recommend it enough.
Available from Shortbox.