The Stall oeuvre is marked by a minor style change that happened about ten years ago and left a trail of more ethereal, obscure works in the form of mini-comics, posters, installations and paintings. “Things You Carry” is the satisfying culmination of the imagery and ideas that make up his new style.
Stall’s earliest books like “Ishkabibble” and “Robot Investigator” featured single protagonists, same as this one, but their world was quite different from the one depicted in “Things You Carry.” Those minis had predictable environments — outside or inside, you could expect to see on the comic page a simplified view of what you’d see in life. Now, the world Stall builds for his stories seems markedly decayed. His primary world right now is Canyon Land, a desolate and broken landscape with tools unused and scattered about in rubble that’s populated by faceless humanoid creatures.
Characters in those older books were also more observant and curious than ones you’ll find in “Things You Carry.” Early King Mini books felt directed by the protagonist, but in this book the characters seem secondary to their mission. Who they are and how they feel bears very little weight on the story. They are very much tools moving toward some kind of purpose laid out by someone else unseen. Bastard Saint eerily lacks humanity and its movement comes from a higher hand, not natural impulse. Like someone set off a trigger and put this thing into action mode.
“Things You Carry” is a silent comic but it does use one word — NOW — which appears within its first pages and seems to set in motion the events of the book. The letters appear suspended in the sky, emitted from a figure on the book’s initial page, and float down to earth. The word rolls out over several pages in hashes and swirls of lines that look like air currents. When they land on the camp where our Bastard Saint sleeps, the journey begins immediately.
It’s all very quiet and beautiful and, while open to interpretation, “Things You Carry” feels like a homecoming story to me. At the end there’s a definite sense that things are right with this world, no matter the mess. It all just comes together.
“Things You Carry” is 96-pages, square-bound, with flat brown inks on yellow pages inside. It’s a beautiful book to handle and a nice one to hold at 6″x6″ in size. It’s available for $10 from the boutique publisher 2d Cloud.