Review: Trains

Comic, O. Ashby, 60 pgs,, $5

2021 Broken Pencil award winner O. Ashby combines original illustration and poetry in her zine, Trains. You might call it a comic or almost a graphic novel, but it feels more to me like a small picture book for sentimental grown ups who miss home — particularly Midwestern homes with industry as a nextdoor neighbour.

Trains is dedicated to the hard-working people of the city of Chicago, a poem accompanied by uncoloured images, one per page, that nostalgically harkens back to an unspecified seemingly idyllic time when massive, hulking, vibrating locomotives flowed consistently through a homely Chicago neighbourhood. The flowing lines of Ashby’s spare but evocative illustrations capture a family’s (or perhaps a larger neighbourhood community’s) rootedness to the place, in which the trains’ huge presence and huge noise was a part of what made the place home.

The trains come alive in Ashby’s words, too. Colossal, bestial things; unstoppable on their journey, but a venerable, dependable visitor to the town, a part of its fabric; “For hound or child or car / Their charge shook the very earth / Shook beds like a quarter pony ride.” Only now, years later, the tracks have gone silent and the trains have ceased to pass through. Between the lines of her poem, equally illustrative of the decades of belonging to this place, this unnamed pocket of Chicago, there is a broader sense of change suggested. Not only have the trains stopped visiting, but much else has changed. Perhaps people have been lost, ways of life, bonds of community. Missing pieces where some-thing whole once was. Ashby skillfully weaves together the tangible, unignorable presence of these trains with the subtler substance of the time and place of this unnamed part of the city in ways that evoke its status as a home.


Overtime and Improv Classes: Aisha Franz on Work-Life Balance and Berlin’s Tech Culture Clash

Berlin is now home to more than 600 startups, modeling themselves after successful American businesses, many tried to import American workplace culture. Cartoonist Aisha Franz' latest book is a satire of the calamity that ensued.

Hazel Jane Plante on Any Other City, Re-Writing a Life and The Museum of Jurassic Technology

"As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also realized that I’ll never have time to create all the projects that bubble up in me, so they often come alive in my fiction."

One Day We Will All Die. Who’ll Make Comics Then? David Galliquio and Comix in Unpredictable Peru.

"People thought I was a degenerate, I did what I did only because the one underground rule was that there were no rules." How the perilous, conservative rulership of Peru shaped its counterculture.

Walking Tall: Boots Riley on the Utility of Absurd Art

“What I want to do is use this exaggeration to point out contradictions and to point out ironies and skip over large swaths of theory and just smack it in your face. That’s the usefulness to me.” The activist, musician and director tells us how to speak to a world that's gotten strange.

NOW What: Is There A Future for the Alt-Weekly?

The loss of local voices goes beyond arts scenes and progressive op-eds as trusted legacy publications become propaganda for your city's worst actors.