My first review of this year is a somewhat unusual one in that it’s of two issues of a magazine that aren’t actually available to buy, as they had already sold out when I received them.
It’s also the first time that I’ve been sent a magazine in a home-made envelope, the reverse side of which contained the face of its creator on an old gig poster. So it was that Wayne Alan Brenner recently sent me the first two issues of his virtuoso creation, Minerva’s Wreck. And they’re tremendous.
MW is a low-budget, high-value proposition with a card cover, broadly about WAB’s hometown of Austin, Texas, and featuring interviews, true stories, fiction, poetry, graphic-novel-style tales, and anything else they could fit inside.
Aside from the three-colour centre pages, and a couple of two-colour ones, the majority of issue one’s 68 oversized pages are monochrome – with colour placed in by hand. Which means photographs and illustrations pasted carefully into place, and rubber stamps placed on pages.
The magazine is filled with clever details. I really like how the missing cut out of Texas in one image quietly appears later, when the person featured in the first illustration has her own article. A lovely, subtle link.
And if you’re already placing things inside, why stop at colour images? Issue one also contains Post-it notes…
a genuine strip of celluloid from an archive B-movie, courtesy of the Alamo Drafthouse
a small bag of nori seaweed
an envelope containing a poem stuck inside the back cover
and a variety of engaging inserts. It’s like La Mas Bella with staples.
Not surprisingly, the second issue was somewhat less ambitious as an object, restricting its imagination to an unusual thin format, a handful of colour photographs, a few stamps – and a slightly improved design, featuring plenty of wit.
Most remarkable of all, perhaps, is that Cafe Armageddon made a second issue at all, given the effort that the first one must have been.
MW is certainly a fantastic, all-round imaginative object. However, its strongest quality is actually the writing, which is zine-y in the very best way: underground, in the know, accessible, funny, creative.
There are a few missteps – poetry is very hard to pull off in any context, particularly one that makes much out of being knowingly self-indulgent, and some of the graphic stories are better than others – but other creative risks, such as WAB’s own tale of arriving in Austin, spread throughout the first issue, succeed wonderfully. He has a very engaging writing style, as readers of the Austin Chronicle can already testify.
I’ve never been to Austin, but I suspect this is the closest you can get to it in print: quirky, creative, unique, enormously pleasurable. And almost impossible to make any money from.
But that’s not a concern for Minerva’s Wreck, which is a niche zine that’s clearly a printed labour of love. And one of the very best I’ve seen.
Look out for issue three some time this year.