When taken in all at once, Chris Ware's QUIMBY THE MOUSE is more than a little overwhelming. As opposed to the generation-spanning familial implosion of Ware's early book Jimmy Corrigan, the stories here are weird little shorts, most of which involve a weird little mouse. Sometimes it has two heads. Sometimes, one of those two heads is dead. Most times the stories are sad.
Ware's sense of package and page design will defy anyone's expectations of comic art; the form of his work, regardless of content, is inexplicable, unexpected, and staggering. The QUIMBY collection, published at the same time as a jaw-dropping Ware sketchbook, is no exception; while some of the stories here are told in the most traditional of comic styles, others exhibit some of the most innovative and experimental formalism going today.
Alongside these traditionally styled stories and Ware's experimental one-pagers, are some of his earliest comics works, originally seen years ago in spiegelman and Mouly's Raw. Most interestingly, Ware has chosen to reprint some of the filler material from his vaguely regular comics series (and home to most of his stories first), The Acme Novelty Library. These pages include letters pages and hobby kit instructionals, fake ads, and other design matter that help give Ware's books their unique vibe of old and new, enriching his design aesthetic around the edges.
The statuesque presence of QUIMBY on the shelf demands attention with its class and elegance; its micro-focused page layouts keep that attention locked up, each page its own little puzzle begging to be pored over, deciphered, lost within. Ware is a singular talent in comics today, out of place alongside most other books like a little boy wearing an ascot and a double-breasted blazer. Or a mouse with two heads.
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.