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Word & Image


Author's Final Manuscript



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The comics artist and illustrator Michael DeForge published his first graphic novel, Ant Colony, in 2014. The sophisticated combination of verbal and visual storytelling in his work has earned him the admiration of readers and critics alike, and makes him one of the most compelling practitioners of the “literary comic.” This article applies surface reading theory to reading contemporary comics, also referred to as graphic narratives or novels, taking the work of DeForge as its case study. It analyzes Ant Colony as a work of narrative art, and also as a theory of narrative art that draws our attention to the process of surface reading: whether to the surfaces of bodies, the surfaces of language, or the surface of the comic book page. Running counter to a close reading practice that assumes that a deeper meaning is hidden in the text, DeForge’s work redirects the reader’s eye to the form of the text itself. This redirection posits an open acceptance, and scrutiny, of the surface: close reading through attention to form.