You might have heard of Anna Fitzpatrick within a few comic circles around Ireland and the UK, mainly for her long-running and gorgeous webcomic Between Worlds which I have linked to on the left hand column. (If you haven’t read it yet, I HUGELY recommend you do. Like, right now.) Fitzpatrick has a certain theme running through her works – strong, distinctive women get caught up in bizarre circumstances and battle their way out of it – and continues this trend in her latest and most personal work, Koré.
Koré began life as a finished project, with all seventy four pages of story and artwork already done before its introduction. It was brought to widespread attention via Fitzpatrick’s Kickstarter campaign back in September to help get the comic printed. Needless to say the funding was massively successful, and as one of the donors I got a watermarked copy of Koré (in December) in its own wonderful inked slipcase, along with a handmade bookmark and five beautiful prints. The high standard of work, presentation and delivery of this comic is a lesson to anyone who takes pride in pursuing artistic ventures like this.
Koré is first and foremost described by the author as finding a way through depression, and the title of the book is a reference to the Queen of the Underworld. What we get is a dark but surreal (and wordless) work where a black gooey being possesses then devours the lives of five unrelated characters in different locales and times, before reaching its ‘enlightenment’ with the final character at the end. Even without text, one can interpret what is happening in the story via their own personal experiences – Fitzpatrick is adept in using symbolism and contrast to explain what is going on.
The artwork is what really takes it home – there is fantastic detail in the backgrounds, and Fitzpatrick’s character designs (a preference towards realism with upturned eyes, broad chins and full lips) are strong and present here. I couldn’t use the phrase ‘manga style’ here, as the term is often used to hand wave away better, more inclusive descriptions of independent comics – Fitzpatrick uses inks and moderate amounts of screentone in her pages, and while they are some of the art tools used to create manga comics, Koré is not a manga. It is quintessentially a European comic, and by an Irish creator whose creative strengths could really represent us favourably to the rest of the continent.
Koré is perhaps the best developed comic overall to have come out in 2013 by a sole independent Irish creator, and hopefully will earn merit in Irish comic awards in 2014 due to its late-in-the-year arrival: while the artist is based in the UK, her work is a triumphant example of how Irish creators can diversify, present and create their works without a safe trope-heavy template.