I heard about the Monsoon anthology online and got immediately excited. Slowork Publishing started the series in 2017 and it consists of four issues of documentary comics from Asia, published in both Chinese and English. It’s an incredibly ambitious series and beautifully put together. I want to focus on issue 2 because it is my favorite and shows the strengths of the series.
When you pick up the book, the first thing you notice is the printing. The issue is full of different textures of paper, different spot inks, and different layouts. It’s the kind of book that makes an argument for why print is still vital.
The focus of the issue is documentary comics, and it starts off looking at two previously published documentary comics, Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Drifting Life and White Wolf. I had never heard of White Wolf before, but it is a documentary comic about the resurgence of white supremacist groups in Germany. This was eye-opening enough, but the article also led me to further reading from the publisher.
And this is something the entire issue does. Each comic here introduces the reader to a situation, often concerning the environmental, cultural, and economic effects of globalism. And after each story, the editors include pages of further information. So you have lists of books, websites, films, and organizations connected to the comic. Since I often was learning about something I had never heard about before, I really appreciated this additional context. It also makes the book more than just a collection of stories. It connects you to a larger world and to avenues for connection and activism.
The comics themselves vary in approach and style. Some are structured like documentary films, others more collage-like, and others more like stories with characters and conflict. The drawing styles vary between near realism to more abstract and iconographic. So the anthology takes you across the world and into many different lives with its subject matter, but it takes you different places visually as well.
Overall, this is an incredibly fulfilling comic. It satisfies on so many levels, from the artistic to the political, from the intellectual to the emotional. I highly recommend checking it out and connecting yourself to the larger world of comics, and to the larger world itself.