Graphic novelist Chris Ware’s work is replete with architectural elements — constructions that suggest collages or mandalas. A single page might hold a variety of panel sizes. Small panels are overlaid on larger scenes. Often, panels fit together like modular puzzle pieces, a square group of four stacked against a single panel of equal size, for instance. A full- page illustration containing various story elements might precede a jumbled page of small bits and pieces, some so tiny that you need magnification to appreciate them. Inside those panels are square lines, right angles, and crescents that picture stained-glass windows or foreheads. Buildings with slanted roofs and tight-lined windows stand in geometric contrast to ovals depicting bees and human beings. The twist of a bird’s head is pitched a perfect 45 degrees from the straight line of its tail and red body. Everything is at once circular or neat and square. Large block text contrasts with smaller cursive statements. Arrows, bubbles, and wiggling lines are used to direct readers along the sometimes orbital path of the layout.
Ware’s latest book, Building Stories (Pantheon Books) — parts of which are collected from his Acme Novelty Library series — is a dimensional expansion of these techniques. The book comes in a box that contains 14 pieces: strips, bound volumes, stapled chapbooks, fold-open displays, and a collapsible game board on which to follow the progress of his subjects.
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