A traditional comic-book hero fights evil and crime, but given the medium’s widespread influence, anything can happen in the storyboards, even the conceivable hallucinations of a drunkard, as in Jeffrey Zwirek’s pages. There always seems to be a small fire burning in Zwirek’s work, alluding to the need for someone to put them out and save everyone. Contrastingly, Gene Ha’s lauded classic superhero pages are on view. Fans of Batman won’t find full stories for perusal; instead, we get to see what we don’t normally see, such as unique drawings on illustration board, sketches, studies for an explosion, and some insight into the master’s hand—a rare look given that our typical encounters with comics is via a mass-produced outlet. If these slices of Ha’s profession, here removed from the narrative context, leave you wanting for the dramatic pacing that comics are known for, Tony Akins’ work delivers on this front. Reveling in the grotesqueries of the comic world, including severed alien heads served on platters, gun-toting, tuxedo-wearing protagonists and hyper-sexed femme fatales, Akins’ style breaks out of the panels in a graphically over-stimulated way, as if the best way to get through them is on a caffeine and coke bender. The work of the five artists smartly interacts with the presentation where the gallery itself becomes an oversized comic book in which to immerse the viewer. (Jason Foumberg)
Through August 20 at Diane Tanios Gallery, 3243 N. Broadway.