Dorfler By Jeremy Baum, Fantagraphics Books, $23.
Just as two wrongs don’t make a right, no amount of low-art inspiration can produce a work of high art, but Jeremy Baum’s impressive debut graphic novel sure manages to fake it. Much of that is presentation, as his oversized Dorfler has the slick look of a coffee-table art book, and much of it is storytelling. Eschewing any kind of hand-holding, his comic operates on something between dream logic and arcade logic, resulting in a narrative so nonlinear, it approaches nonsensical.
Multiple iterations of the same woman journey through see-sawing dystopian sci-fi and sword-and-sorcery fantasy settings, searching for answers to questions like who’s who, who’s dreaming what and why. Baum’s art is obsessive in its line work, with tree limbs and apartment buildings looking like abstracted circuitry, and magic and memory affected by highly-detailed doodling. His heroine is often naked, further suggesting a self-published Heavy Metal magazine adventure.
Readers will likely end up as lost as the protagonist, but Baum’s illustrated meditation on genre tropes, video games and eroticism at least makes for good company.