Written, Drawn, and Lettered by Matthew Warlick
Looking at Senryu as a standard comic would be an exercise in futility -- a mixture of chutzpah, free association and illustrated poetry, Indy Comic Week co-founder Matt Warlick's book is a personal story put in front of an impersonal audience that nevertheless gives readers a little bit of food for thought.
In many ways, despite Warlick's talent with art duties, the real focus of Senryu seems to be the writing. As the name "Senryu" implies, Warlick largely utilizes a precocious style of poetry to adorn his images. While some of the segments -- usually only lasting a page or two each -- feel a little adolescently fluffy, there are some other poems, such as a look at Yvonne Vladislavich, Matt Biondi and the dolphins that saved their lives that have that x-factor that'll really hook you in.
The book in particular works, however, when Warlick's design sensibilities kick in. There's a particular poem with an anti-war stance that is easily -- easily -- the best page of the book, and it allows this one-man-band to use every instrument he has. "Let loose the dogs of whatever war we see fit," he writes, as a mushroom cloud blooms in the distance. "We leave our glowing fingerprints on all we touch. Decay is our gift." One of the more traditional stories of the bunch -- about an amnesiac superman from outer space -- is particularly interesting, and its two-page length only makes you wish Warlick would write more of it.
Of course, the book isn't perfect -- but considering this is an independent effort from a budding creator, a lot can be forgiven for the occasional indiscretion. There seems to be more than a little bit of a hat-tip to creators like Grant Morrison -- particularly seeing a man sitting in Morrison's trademark lotus position -- that feels more like a crutch than an homage, and as I said before, some of these stories are so personal and minimalistic that we might miss the overall point.
Overall, Senryu is not going to deliver the same sort of traditional storytelling that, say, the Indy Comic Book Week submission Solomon Azua might. But that said, this book isn't trying to pander to anyone -- it's intensely personal, and every indication says that it's art for art's sake. If you're demanding adventure entertainment, Senryu isn't the book for you. But if you're a fan of poetry and art and the sort of daydreaming that comes with it, give this book a look. It may not be Eisner-ready just yet, but Senryu is a precocious read that's indicative of a lot of potential.