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Homer comes to Winnipeg in collaborative graphic novel

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/1/2016 (1110 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Plenty of writers have had a chance to put their own spin on Homer in the centuries since Odysseus first began his endless voyage. At this point, the tale has permeated culture so deeply that any attempt to adapt it again is going to need an extra-special hook.

Comics scribe/artist/colourist Lovern Kindzierski has taken on the challenge by grounding the tale in its most personal elements.

Kindzierski's newest graphic novel, Underworld, created in collaboration with artist GMB Chomichuk and letterer Ed Brisson, weaves Homer's tale into Winnipeg's streets. The 128-page graphic novel follows Hector Ashton, the delusional, strung-out son of an opportunistic local power broker, as he escapes St. Boniface Hospital's psych ward.

Hector's skewed view of the world is present from the first page -- obsessed with Homer's The Odyssey, he views everything around him in the context of the story, seeing Lotus Eaters in the ward and mistaking the Red River for Styx itself. Through this device Chomichuk, a skilled hand at rendering monsters, drops dragons, harpies and more into the heart of the city.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/1/2016 (1110 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Plenty of writers have had a chance to put their own spin on Homer in the centuries since Odysseus first began his endless voyage. At this point, the tale has permeated culture so deeply that any attempt to adapt it again is going to need an extra-special hook.

Comics scribe/artist/colourist Lovern Kindzierski has taken on the challenge by grounding the tale in its most personal elements.

Images by GMB Chomichuk / Renegade Arts Entertainment

Images by GMB Chomichuk / Renegade Arts Entertainment

Kindzierski's newest graphic novel, Underworld, created in collaboration with artist GMB Chomichuk and letterer Ed Brisson, weaves Homer's tale into Winnipeg's streets. The 128-page graphic novel follows Hector Ashton, the delusional, strung-out son of an opportunistic local power broker, as he escapes St. Boniface Hospital's psych ward.

Hector's skewed view of the world is present from the first page — obsessed with Homer's The Odyssey, he views everything around him in the context of the story, seeing Lotus Eaters in the ward and mistaking the Red River for Styx itself. Through this device Chomichuk, a skilled hand at rendering monsters, drops dragons, harpies and more into the heart of the city.

The book, first conceived during Kindzierski's university days decades ago, paints a grimy portrait of the city's downtown and Osborne Village areas. It's a place of seedy meat markets, corrupt cops and an endless string of dark alleys where cocaine is the universal currency, buying Hector information or safety as he trudges toward home.

His journey puts him in the crosshairs of feuding parties within the Winnipeg Police Service, which provides some needed tension, but the real story here is about Hector taking control of his own life and finding a happiness that is his own.

When it comes to portraying that world visually, Kindzierski has found the right champion in Chomichuk, whose style is tailor-made for the story's noir-ish setting. He creates a grim, oppressive atmosphere for Hector to wander through, but it's also lively and exciting at times — there's a real sense of motion to a whirlpool Hector and company come across, or a shopping-cart race past the Legislative Building that suddenly becomes Odysseus overseeing his fleet.

Chomichuk's figures have a natural look to them, being rooted in photographs of live subjects. However, a handful of these poses repeat throughout the book, and noticing the repetition can render a scene static, pulling one out of the fiction.

Kindzierski writes Hector's dialogue in the sort of florid tones you might expect from a character whose origins are in a poem. It makes for a good story, and the prose style creates a nice juxtaposition against the midnight-black nature of his world.

Lovern Kindzierski GMB Chomichuk Ed Brisson

Lovern Kindzierski GMB Chomichuk Ed Brisson

However, there seems to be something of a disconnect between Hector's behaviour and the way it's interpreted by other people. For the most part, Hector's archaic speech patterns go unnoticed by nearly everyone he meets, aside from a couple of moments where they find the names he invokes bizarre. If the characters never remarked on it, readers might conclude Hector merely hears himself this way. If they do notice it, you'd think other characters would confront him more about it.

Brisson's lettering lends character to the world, particularly with Hector, whose scrawled dialogue fits his fractured state nicely.

It took Kindzierski decades of revisiting and percolating to finally produce Underworld, so whether or not his baby came into the world as envisioned is ultimately up to him.

Regardless, readers who pick it up will be treated to an interesting take on an old story, and a fantastical version of Winnipeg they've never seen before.

 

Darren Ridgley is the deputy editor of Canstar Community News.

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History

Updated on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at 9:25 AM CST: Formatting.

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