Posted by: Abhay Khosla on August 7, 2007
So– I’m in a hurry this week– please forgive me if this is dull as a result as I think it might be; Jog and Graeme both review this book already, but I want to attempt to talk about MULTIPLE WARHEADS #1 by Brandon Graham (via Oni Press)— it feels a bit early to talk about the series though.
I’d read KING CITY, but I never read Brandon Graham’s ESCALATOR: I had bought ESCALATOR at a San Diego Con two or three years ago on a Sunday morning. I was feeling horrible that day—I’d had a bad lunch, or I’d eaten something the night before that had gone down profoundly wrong. So I’m miserable—absolutely fucking miserable, all day long. Evening comes, and I’m walking past a hotel, when it all reaches a climax: I put the books down and proceed to begin violently vomiting into the nearest bush. I finish, and… the book is gone. (Just ESCALATOR and some mini-comic, luckily).
If you’ve never been to a San Diego Con before, I always thought “they stole my comics as I was vomiting” was as perfect a one-sentence description of, like, the entire experience as you’ll ever hear. And that was back before it got really crazy.
Anyway, MULTIPLE WARHEADS… Let’s get that stupid, boring “reviewing” business out of the way, first: I agree with Jog and Graeme that this is a totally fun comic. Now, armed with the knowledge of my opinion, venture out into the world of Men! Men in Italian Suits, who drink Cappuccino, and wear Cufflinks! You are ready!
It seems like comics have got this younger generation of cartoonists, blasting out these comics that aren’t just heavily influenced by junk culture but unquestioningly embracing junk culture. It’s some of my favorite stuff going right now, actually. One thing I’ve noticed: there’s a tendency towards these bizarre affirmations of comics. Not the content of comics, or the object-ness of comics, so much as just comics gratia comics: as a lifestyle choice or a destination in and of itself. “OH MY GOD, COMICS CURED MY ACNE!”
Examples: TEENAGERS FROM MARS featured a Comic Book Liberation Army. Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos and Rafael Grampa released a gnarly comic at the San Diego convention called 5, which featured, among other things, one story concluding with Cloonan happily chaining herself to a drawing table, and another with Lolos smiling and happily drawing comics while alone and in TRACTION(!). CASANOVA Volume I, Issue 7, Page 6, Panel 6: “I love comics!” Brandon Graham concludes the first volume of his terrific Tokyopop graphic novel KING CITY with a one page comic essay on Drawing Comics, featuring exhortations like “You could steal pens and paper and make the best comic ever sitting on a dumpster.”
MULTIPLE WARHEADS has a good one: it goes from a sex scene to characters post-coital, in bed, vulnerably discussing the latest issue of BARBARIAN REVENGE.
(For fun with generational shifts, compare that for a second to the following passage from Ivan Brunetti’s SCHIZO #4: “I have reached the October of my enthusiasm. I don’t think drawing cartoons is a moral thing to do. I should be mopping the AIDS ward at the county hospital. I hate everything I’ve ever done. Every night when I go to bed, I pray for death.” Or to page 25 of the ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY Library of Novelty collection entitled Ruin Your Life: Draw Cartoons and Doom Yourself to Decades of Grinding Isolation, Solipsism, and Utter Social Disregard. Or to any panel in Dan Clowes’s PUSSEY, say.)
MULTIPLE WARHEADS mostly skates along on Graham’s considerable cartoon energy, with a little maybe-from-real-life relationship energy sometimes peeking out from under the surface. Watching him spread some of that around isn’t a bad way to pass time. Graham’s worlds are built through an accretion of seemingly random details. I guess I’m used to that from Grant Morrison comics, where there can be crazy surface details, but it’s just sugar-coating for whatever Morrison’s really talking about. A lot of newer work uses a similar principle, but it’s not coated to much by way of a philosophy or discernible themes yet so much as exploring purely personal concerns: heartbreak, friends, girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, etc. KING CITY is a wallop of fun and one of the books I’ve most enjoyed this year for it, but I couldn’t tell you what I took away from it. Similarly, MULTIPLE WARHEADS is more pleasurable at seeing an obviously talented cartoonist let loose than for any theme or observation being conveyed, say. Maybe there’s something there about relationships but it hasn’t really crystallized yet.
Which is sort of a worrisome thing for the future: that the tangible results of all that enthusiasm from all these promising cartoonists sometimes do little more than reproduce the emotional state of eating pixie sticks. My favorite Cory Lewis comic to date is about kickball…? Joss Whedon just launched a webcomic (with totally pretty art from Fabio Moon & the so-so-so-great Dave Stewart) entitled SUGARSHOCK. It’s… it’s about a rock band of young girls…?
SUGARSHOCK …? Uhm, dude, I liked it and all, but: Joss Whedon is 43 years old.
Joss Whedon doesn’t lie awake worrying about whether a rock band of young girls will make it happen; he worries about his house payment. Or the rattling sound his Lexus is making. Or whether his daughters get into Vassar.
I enjoyed MULTIPLE WARHEADS #1, and I think you would too, but would it be unseemly to acknowledge that sometimes I look at it and its contemporaries, and experience a minor slice of existential terror? I don’t know about you, but on this end of the screen, shit, I’m not getting any younger over here. Getting older has positive qualities, more than I expected, but, Jumping Jesus Crap, I’m terrified of it anyway. I’m not sure what the theme of MULTIPLE WARHEADS is, but is there kind of an unspoken thing to all these books of … “Look! Look at our Youth before it fades!” I’m terrified of being old and hearing kids blather incoherently about video games and anime; or even worse, infinitely worse: being old and hearing kids blather incoherently about video games and anime and UNDERSTANDING WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT! You are the Ghost of Christmas Future, Joss Whedon!!!
But like I said in sentence #1—it’s too early to say. Maybe Corey Lewis will end up doing comics about spikey-haired 38-year olds who, ZOMG, get the most awesomous prostate exams of all time. Scott Pilgrim: Deadbeat Dad. The Pirates of Coney Island sick with worry about what will become of their children if they were to die unexpectedly. Guy with Inexplicable Werewolf Penis (?) from MULTIPLE WARHEADS #1 struggling to meet a decent woman on Match.Com. Maybe they’ll keep the energy and have their themes evolve, without succumbing to the despair of … without becoming SCHIZO #4, basically. Maybe? Maybe that’s possible…?
In the meantime, you could do worse than to give MULTIPLE WARHEADS #1 a look.