Dungeonoids vol. 1 (Autumn 2021) – Tyler Landry

5 out of 5

Tyler Landy is the modern king of indie comics.

I read a fair amount, I think, of off-brand stuff, and a lot of it definitely blows my mind. It ranges from very squarely DIY and zine-y to more action-oriented or genre stuff, and perhaps these things can also be ranked at various points on a scale demarking how close or far they are to / from the mainstream, but amongst all of those permutations, I’d still say Tyler Landry is the king of indie comics. To clarify a bit more, I might hand a book to someone and describe with some certain terms or descriptors, generic things like that they’re “strange” or “have great art,” but when I think back to the exciting boom of indie comics from the 80s, my thoughts dream up things like Landry’s work: invariably black and white (or duo-toned), with incredibly accessible but obtuse narratives, existing in a middleground between comedy and contemplative. Yes, they can be strange, or have great art, but those aren’t necessarily the first words and phrases that come to mind, but rather: indie. There’s a certain energy and passion found in books of that breed, that can make reading even the more amateur or poor efforts worth time to flip through.

And Landry’s work is far from amateurish. It’s quite masterful, actually, and in a subtle, unintimidating fashion: his use of negative space is second to none, and the decisions (whether subconsciously made or not) between when panels are more realistic versus stylized or surreal creates exactly the kind of mood and story looseness required to make the slightly crass and removed-from-reality tone and environs feel completely natural; immersive. He’s a wonderfully talented cartoonist, and just a glimpse of his pages gives me that no-idea-what-to-expect thrill of a classic indie book.

Dungeonoids – hopefully the first volume of however many – collects and refines two strips that’d previously appeared online: Momus, Alone at Last, and Shitman in: Trash Wisdom. The subtitle on the book’s cover – Constipation / Clamor / Complaint / Complacency – is not an inaccurate set of applicable terms, and both stories spend panel time on having their featured character pee. But again, this isn’t something indicative of a narrower genre, like gross-out comix. Landry doesn’t mind wallowing in such filth, but it’s not indulgent, just as his characters bemusedly chatter their thoughts to us in a casual format that’s not overweighed with intended meaning, but neither is it meaningless. Momus searches for a home, and food, in its subterranean, labryrinth-esque world, and Shitman has a good chuckle reading (without eyes) some books on humanity.

Also included are some pinups by Landry appreciators, as a “gallery of the unwashed.” The imprint Tyler has used here – Lowly Comics – puts us between glossy, soft-stock covers, with the b&w art popping and crisp on the page stock.

A Dungeonoid, so the foreword goes, is a “ruler-in-chains of a moldering prison of its own creation.” Perfect.