Last week, the venerable It’s Nice That ran its own recommendation of Jesse Moynihan’s Forming II under the headline “If you buy one book in your entire life, make it Jesse Moynihan’s Forming II”. Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is pretty forceful as statements go, but nonetheless one that fans of creator Jesse Moynihan’s sterling protohistoric soap opera/ comedy/ epic battle of galactic gods may well attest to.
A baby Zeus accompanies his mother. the Titan Rhea, on her way to battle the Gnome King. Moynihan’s got a knack for irreverent dialogue that meets the lofty goal of being jarringly comedic and relatable – sometimes even touchingly so – all at once.
At the risk of oversimplifying a comic that does quite an impressive act of juggling a lot of different characters and source material, Forming is probably most accurately (but admittedly not most eruditely) described as a colossal pan-religious amalgamation of different creation stories from human history. Forming I begins with space conquistador Mithras touching down on Atlantis and quickly establishing himself – Stargate-style – as a deific ruler. Before you know it, he’s passed on spoken language and farming systems to humanity in addition to fathering a dysfunctional family of cyclopes and titans with the Earth mother Gaia. Meanwhile, over in Canaan, other space gods have kicked off the Abrahamic Genesis by interacting with Adam and Eve. From there, even more bizarre factors come into play and things get increasingly metaphysical, complex, and violent(!) as the story progresses.
Focused though the human prism of talent that is Jesse Moynihan (best known for his work an Emmy Award-winning artist and storyboarder on Adventure Time), Forming II builds on the strong foundation of its excellent prequel with impressive cartooning, visual inventiveness, and a rhythm for comedic dialogue that undulates between the inappropriately prosaic and melodramatically hyperbolic. Don’t worry, it’s good and weird too: I’m you’ll be pleased to know that this second volume joins the great canon of stories inspired by Jacob’s Ladder in a scene where Noah (of Arc fame) ascends to heaven on a mystical ladder made of his own ejaculate.
Where the first volume focused on establishing a lot of the relationships and themes of the epic, volume two is much more action packed. This gives Moynihan a great deal of licence to showcase his abilities as an artist via astonishing mystical set pieces and good ol’ fashioned giant shonen manga-esque battles. It’s worth mentioning that Nobrow’s press release states that Moynihan (like many cartoonists of his generation) lists childhood exposure to of Fist of the North Star as an influence. I’ll let the accompanying visuals speak for themselves here:
If you wish, Theia, goddess of sight will enlarge these pictures for you if you click on them.
Despite It’s Nice That’s suggestion of limiting your literary consumption to just one American-authored title sounding like a very committed bit of activism against education tzar Michael Gove’s isolationist GSCE literature policy, I’d like to one-up them by suggesting that, to get the most out of Forming II, you should also purchase its great prequel also. Much like the classical myths it draws from, Forming’s cast sprawls out pretty fast and it’s best to be get up to speed by reading the first volume rather than drop yourself in medias res with volume two. That’s no bad thing though, the complexity only ads to the wild ride of the comic and, coupled with the climactic developments of volume 2, will no doubt make you desperate to read the third volume (which Moynihan will be serialising before collection on his website here). It’s worth noting that Moynihan himself seems to gleefully relish the book’s spiralling relationships, and delightfully includes a diagram in each volume to help keep track of this monstrous but very much rewarding tale. I’d definitely buy a print – hint hint.
“Ah-ha!” I hear you shout into the screen of your computer or mobile device, “He’s just wants us to buy Forming I as well because he’s bound to commerce via his employment at Forbidden Planet. Of course he wants us to buy both volumes!”. Normally, you’d be right of course, except on this occasion, we’re completely out of stock of Forming I and so I’d recommend buying it from Nobrow over at their website here. Consider me absolved from your accusations.
That’s enough of my blathering, right. Here’s the tl;dr version: if you love wild cartooning, mythology, or c0medy you owe it to yourself to check out Forming II. Do it!