The Plague, Reviewed

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The tagline of Detroit’s Rotland Press is “Fine Publisher of Excursions Into Humor + Despair” and, well, the latter is something many of us are more intimately familiar with these days in quarantine as we crave the former.

The tagline also perfectly encapsulates Rotland’s latest project: The Plague Review.

Cover by S. William Schudlich; image by David Opdyke

The second issue launched yesterday, and though the first two installments may have been hastily assembled to capture the pandemic in real time, they feel anything but—in 56-page bursts, they offer myriad lenses on COVID-19 in the form of art by David Shrigley, Chloé Poizat, David Opdyke and others, comics from the likes of Irene Montemurro, Chris Cilla, Johnny Damm and D.B. Dowd, interviews with Joanna Ebenstein of Morbid Anatomy, artist Sue Coe and filmmaker Guy Maddin, and much more.

As Rotland publisher and Plague Review editor Ryan Standfest writes in his opening editor’s note, “In keeping with the mission of Rotland Press, The Plague Review presents a collection of responses to this moment that engenders the need to give form to collective trauma. Addressing that which challenges our lives at this time, the voices in this publication swing wildly from hope to grief, from intimate joy to overwhelming outrage. From visual makers and thinkers around the world who have worked toward evoking and representing that which is subjectively felt and not directly observed, strategies of thought contemplation mingle with mordantly humored bursts of enthusiastic despair. Collectively, the work contained herein represents a vital attempt at getting a psychic foothold within a pit where the fissures are often difficult to see.”

Ultimately, The Plague Review is more mirror than morbid—the mosaic of emotions presented in its pages offer a panorama of the pandemic and the world as we experience it today.

Rotland Press intends to publish the Review as a free digital read until COVID-19 ends. At that point, the issues will be printed in a limited run.

Here are a few pages and spreads from the first two issues. Check them out in full here.

Andrew Kosten

Amze Emmons; Wouter Vanhaelemeesch

Johnny Damm

D.B. Dowd

Image: Fred Stonehouse

Paul Nudd; Erik Ruin