The comic is a collection of short stories, and it’s a surreal set of vignettes that have an undeniably dream-like quality running throughout them. A lot of the stories have a quiet, subdued, emotional honesty, and they convey that sort of bittersweet pain of being in love. Others are psychedelic portrayals of the working of a mind plagued by anxiety and mental torment. There’s even a couple sci-fi, seemingly post apocalyptic action sequences, and a few genuinely funny short stories as well. Through it all, Mckinley’s art consistently blew me away. He adjusts and transforms his style from story to story, but retains an idiosyncratic style with his monochromatic inks.
Mckinley starts the book with one of the comics that I noticed on his website and was extremely impressed by. It’s called When I Think, and it consists of 6 panels, a page per panel, that depicts a man sitting and facing the reader as his mind is literally blown. His brains blow out of the back of his head and mutate and grow into this strange, gigantic monster. This monster rapidly expands and consumes all of the guy’s body like a giant morphing cancer. The visceral grossness of Mckinley’s art here is impressive in its ability to both disgust you and also give this huge morphing organism a look of reality. It doesn’t come across as cheesy and fake looking… the inherent grossness of the art here is Mckinley’s ability to pour detail and imagination into the design of the monster and make it feel genuinely real despite it’s absurd and unreal nature.
Beyond merely the obvious skill of Mckinley as an artist, there’s also the underlying metaphor of When I Think. The silent six page story is communicating a state of mind, a psychological feeling which is left up to the reader to experience and interpret for themselves. Later in the book, another story called No Pill Today achieves a similar effect. This three page story shows a man tormented by demon-like phantoms that urge him to take his pill. These taunting ghosts swarm around him like clouds of steam until finally he relents and takes his pill. Mckinley’s art here is just stellar, and the way that he makes this character seem surrounded and trapped by these overwhelming phantoms does a perfect job of illustrating the experience of anxiety.
Mckinley also has tales like This is How we Destroyed Each Other, which tells the story of two people meeting in a coffee shop and falling in love. The down to earth and touching emotional tone of this comic makes these characters seem like real people, yet Mckinley also adds surrealist touches to the comic. He has his two characters wearing what look like fake noses, like metaphorical halloween masks, an effect that he uses in some of his other comics as well. He also has these characters transported to a metaphorical outer space landscape when they’re making love, as if their act of intercourse is so transcendent and beautiful that a simple bedroom background wouldn’t do it justice.
In addition to some of his more down to Earth stories, Mckinley has a couple sci-fi action sequences that show a lone adventurer journeying through a stark, alien environment. Hunting Elahwa is simply an awesome sequence that shows this adventurer fighting some sort of water beast and chopping it up with a sword. The detail that Mckinley puts into the water and the environment, the dynamic pacing and flow of the sequence, and the splatter of black blood as the protagonist slices up the beast…they all add up to making this scene an awesome piece of sci-fi action.
Mckinley has another short story that seems to feature the same character called Egg Hunt. It shows the character crossing a vast alien desert and entering a cave filled with eggs. Just as he takes one of the eggs, he’s ambushed by a giant insect monster that presumably laid the eggs. It’s another awesome sci-fi action sequence, and Mckinley has a real eye for foreboding and alien environments. He’s also excellent at drawing grotesque and threatening monsters.
There are even more vignettes in I’ll Take you To The Moon and Leave You There that I didn’t cover, and I’d recommend picking up this book. Skuds Mckinley has a really cool and idiosyncratic style that works well for down to Earth, touching personal moments, and also for surreal sci-fi locations and animals. The stories in this book not only had great art, but they also communicate real feelings that come through to the reader, like depression and anxiety, or the feeling of falling in love, or just a general malaise. You can find more of his work and his contact information at Batshitart.com.