“Boltzmann Cosmic Body Horror”: First Impressions of “Chronosis”
It has been three years since the first e-flux version of Chronosis has been released. Much like the upcoming Abducting the Outside, it’s been a publication I’ve been eagerly anticipating. Like most things that I get overwhelmingly obsessed with, I research them and contemplate them Ad Infinitum until I grow bored and move on. It caught me by complete surprise when I heard Urbanomic announce on Twitter that the publication existed as a printed material object. I quickly hopped on the Internet and did my “googling” to find out when and where I could buy it. Not long after, the initial post-Urbanomic announced their special edition with an alternate black and white cover, which was to be signed by those involved in the project. That would include Keith Tilford, Reza Negarestani, and Robin McKay.
Now full disclaimer this will only be my initial reaction and impressions of the comic book, not a deep analysis trying to underpin the significance or analyze its efficacy as a medium. I’m simply going to give you a rundown of my experience with the actual material object, analyzing design, graphics, overall narrative, theoretical potential, etc. But this won’t come close to exhausting the themes addressed in the issue nor the upcoming full review.
Chronosis is approximately 10.5” x 6.8”, which means it’s your standard comic book dimensions for you comic lovers out there. It’s 152 pages of what had been described as Boltzmann Cosmic Body Horror, which is an apt way of describing some of the more abstract panels in the comic. In terms of quality, it is exactly what you’d expect from any high-quality graphic novel the paneling, lettering, and coloring is all superb, considering that Keith Tilford was behind all those individual components.
In terms of the actual content, I have to disclose this right off the bat, “Chronosis” is particularly dense, not in the same way that something like Intelligence and Spirit is dense or that it has a particularly intricate and flushed out a narrative, Which I will discuss at length in the full review. Still, this comic book is hard to grasp and take in in one reading fully. Many panels played around with abstract illustrations. This alone called for some wonderful moments where I had to stop and think about what it was conveying and what it related to in terms of time; after all, the comic book is a story about TIME.
There’s a lot I want to dive into, but I’m afraid that giving too much would be spoil and would “taint” your particular journey or interaction with this comic. It should suffice to say that the comic book was overwhelmingly schizo-psychedelic using particular tropes and cliches but finding ways to incorporate that as a narrative and as an exploration of philosophy if you are quick to pick up on the hints.
A good 1/6 of the comic is parallel to the original e-flux, which was linked above, but the art style and production quality are noticeably different. There are quite a bit of funny moments in the comic book, but overall, there are large portions of the comic book which are just nice to look at. If you wanted pure abstract-theory porn in a visual medium, this is the comic for you.
The comic book has some shortcomings that should really go without saying, but they’re really more like nitpicks than serious problems. One of them is how abstract it can be at times. Don’t get me wrong, that’s the whole point of a comic book, but there are a few moments where I found myself questioning whether or not what I was looking at made sense outside of those who spent three years in the making, but overall this isn’t a major problem.
My copy (which is the signed special edition #106) arrived on Monday, the day before the official release. I read all of it that night and fell asleep thinking about what I had just read, and I just kept thinking and thinking and thinking. Ultimately it has been on my mind all week in the same way that a movie or a good book stays in your mind as you slice through all the conceptual layers trying to uncover the new ways that cultural artifact has made you think.
Let’s cut the bullshit, “Chronosis” is good, and I actually recommended it to my girlfriend and a coworker who happens to like this kind of thing. Still, although it has something different fan groups can enjoy, the theory nerd, the comic book ner, the pop-culture enthusiast, etc. I find it hard to truly tell everyone that they should read it because it really isn't for everyone at the end of the day. It is for a designated market, but that’s okay; that’s why it can be as dense as it is to stay on my mind all week. It accomplishes to be abstract but not unbearable or intimidating. There certainly was room to expand and developed ways of exploring the comic book itself as a medium (as the comic book is still just following some form of conventional storytelling). Still, honestly, I’m just glad that something like this even exists in a world where people are satisfied with the most kiddish forms of entertainment and think that contrarianism and subversion via the introduction of “21st-century diversification”, it feels wonderful to look at something and truly feel confused, displeased, and concerned, not because it’s bad but because you as the consumer actually have to put in some work and do something and interact with the work.
These are just my initial impression. More to come as T I M E continues…