Readers of the “Frank” stories know that the Unifactor is in control of everything
that happens to the characters that abide there, and that however extreme
the experiences they undergo may be, in the end nothing really changes. That
goes treble for Frank himself, who is kept in a state of total ineducability by the
unseen forces of that haunted realm. And so the question arises: what would
happen if Frank were to leave the Unifactor?
That question is answered in Congress of the Animals, Jim Woodring's much-anticipated
second full-length graphic novel following 2010's universally acclaimed Weathercraft, and first starring his signature
character Frank. In this gripping saga an act of casual rudeness sets into motion
a chain of events which propels Frank into a world where he is on his own at
last; and like so many who leave home, Frank finds himself contending with
realities of which he had no previous inkling.
In Congress of the Animals we are treated to the pitiful spectacle of Frank losing his house, taking a factory job, falling
in with bad company, fleeing the results of sabotage, escaping the Unifactor in an amusement park ride, surviving
a catastrophe at sea, traveling across hostile terrain toward a massive temple seemingly built in his image, being treated
roughly by gut-faced men and intervening in an age-old battle in a meadow slathered in black and yellow blood. And
when he finally knocks on opportunity's door he finds... he finds...
Suffice to say he finds what most of us would like to find. Can he bring it back with him? Will the Unifactor accept
him as he has become? Are his sins forgiven? Is love real? Is this the end of Frank as we know him?
For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled
readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of “Frank.”
Weathercraft is Woodring’s first full-length graphic novel set in this world —
indeed, Woodring’s first graphic novel, period! — and it features the same hypnotically
gorgeous linework and mystical iconography.
As it happens, Frank has only a brief supporting appearance in Weathercraft,
which actually stars Manhog, Woodring’s pathetic, brutish everyman (or everyhog), who had previously made several
appearances in “Frank” stories (as well as a stunning solo turn in the short story “Gentlemanhog”).
After enduring 32 pages of almost incomprehensible suffering, Manhog embarks upon a transformative journey and
attains enlightenment. He wants to go to celestial realms but instead altruistically returns to the unifactor to undo a
wrong he has inadvertently brought about: The transformation of the evil politician Whim into a mind-destroying
plant-demon who distorts and enslaves Frank and his friends. The new and metaphysically expanded Manhog sets out
for a final battle with Whim...
Weathercraft also co-stars Frank’s cast of beloved supporting characters, including Frank’s Faux Pa and the diminutive,
mailbox-like Pupshaw and Pushpaw; it is both a fully independent story that is a great introduction to Woodring’s
world, and a sublime addition to, and extension of, the Frank stories.
"I have long admired Woodring’s brilliant, hallucinatory, and bizarre Frank comics. But his work has taken a leap forward with last year’s Weathercraft and this year’s Congress of the Animals. The Frank world is one the reader benefits by being immersed in. What might seem a bit incomprehensible in a short strip blossoms into a dark Dionysian dream in these two graphic novels.... If I keep mentioning them together, it is because I believe they beg to be read together. They show different but complimentary sides of Woodring’s vision. And also because these two books combine to form, I believe, one of the greatest achievements in recent comics. If you are a fan of the strange, the uncanny, the bizarre, the hallucinatory, and the fantastic, I can’t recommend them enough." – Lincoln Michel, The Faster Times
Praise for Weathercraft:
"...Jim Woodring's Weathercraft creates a fantastic alternative universe. ...Woodring constructs a nightmarish tale in which Manhog falls victim to the villainous depredations of the all-too-aptly named Whim and the spells of the witchy pair Betty and Veronica. Those unfamiliar with the Woodring dreamscape may want to pick up The Frank Book collection as a primer, but the stand-alone Weathercraft requires no real prep work — just an openness to disturbing, id-derived imagery." – Cliff Froehlich, St. Louis Post-Dipatch
"It’s all even stranger than [the] description makes it sound, but Woodring manages
to make it all somehow convincing and compelling. There’s a consistent internal logic at work, and his
cartoony-but-detailed drawing style, loaded with surreal imagery (think Walt Disney meets Carlos
Castaneda) is the ideal vehicle to convey this hauntingly peculiar tale. And if it doesn’t all make
perfect — or even imperfect — sense, its mysteries and subtleties reward repeat readings. Over the past two
decades Woodring has created a dense and distinctive universe, and Weathercraft is perhaps its most
rewarding portrayal yet."
– Gordon Flagg, Booklist
"When most people try to employ dream logic in their work they fail miserably but Jim [Woodring] is great at it. The closest thing to a peer he might have is David Lynch but even that’s a stretch. Jim Woodring is the only Jim Woodring and no one has done what he does except for him. ... There’s not much point in trying to sum up the story of this comic. There’s no text, the art is beautiful, and you’re totally consumed by the world he’s created and you exist inside it while you’re reading it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
Praise for Jim Woodring and Frank:
"The ancient myths and folk tales of all cultures which have been preserved for so many centuries have meaning for us today because the fantastic elements in them are rooted in immutable reality. The Frank stories belong to this class of literature." – Francis Ford Coppola
"Jim Woodring may be the most important cartoonist of his generation. The Frank stories are masterpieces, each and every one. Read them. Re-read them. Re-re-read them. Every cell in your body will remember this spellbinding, visionary work." – Scott McCloud
"The Frank stories have a meditative, hallucinatory feel... They tap into a universal consciousness of archetypes. But ultimately Frank tells one story, everyone's story, the same story as life: 'How Laughably Absurd It All Is.'" – Time.com
"Frank's a frankly mind-blown creature who reminds you that there are more worlds in the world than you may be recognizing as you go about the daily grind." – New York Press
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