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Abhay Thinks Reviewing Comic Books is Really Just a Bad Idea, Period

Abhay Khosla

This is a negative review of Cry Yourself to Sleep, a comic book created by Jeremy Tinder, published by Top Shelf Productions in Augt 6, and received with near unanimous critical acclaim by a comic audience that apparently doesn’t want to “make people feel bad.”

Newsarama: “A tiny gem.” Some blog: “required reading for all 20-something girls who are interested in finding out what really lurks in the hearts of their male counterparts.” Some other blog: “easily confuseable for [autobiography].” Everybody has a blog: “Tinder has successfully delivered a graphic novel that makes some readers look back at their youth and some readers to observe what they may face as young adults.” Bloggity-schmog: “Not only does he present readers with a humorous tale, he also deals with very real issues in his narrative.” Schmogoly-bloggity-shmoh: “ultimately it’s a story of promise and comfort.”

Here is the absolute, bar-none, most brutally negative review I could find, courtesy of none other than Savage Critic Mr. Jog Blog: “There’s not all that much to say about it, save that it’s gently humorous, in possession of some attractive visual flourish, not entirely well strung-together, and suggesting of good things in the author’s near-future.”

So, now I have to be the bad guy? Really?

Why does that—where did I sign up for that? I want to be the good guy. I want to be loved. I don’t want to be the bad guy. I have at least once or twice took some pleasure in writing a bad review– so stipulated. But goddammit, I’m a human being, and sometimes I feel guilty or sometimes I feel bad or sometimes I worry about my karma or sometimes I want to buy a Laz-E-Boy that I nickname “The Sex-E-Boy” or sometimes I think babies are plotting against me.

I don’t want to “make people feel bad.”

But here’s my argument: Jeremy Tinder should feel bad because he made a bad comic book.

He should feel good if he made a good comic, and bad if he made a bad one. If you have a pet dog, and the dog shits on your carpet, you don’t give it steak sandwich. Why? Because you don’t want dogshit all over your carpets. Ipso facto. Quo vadis.

A tiny gem, Newsarama? That gem is pyrite! Oh, your head gets all confused and you think maybe the comic is autobiographical? The comic book is about a talking bunny rabbit! Lies! Lies, all lies!
Artists are not legally or biologically speaking children; what that means: you can quit coddling them. If you’ll allow me to paraphrase MAJOR PAYNE: THE MOTION PICTURE, you have to slap your titty out of the boy’s mouth.

There’s no shame to making a bad comic book. Jeremy Tinder shouldn’t feel ashamed. Most people make bad comic books. Even great comic creators make bad comic books, sometimes. As bad comics go, I’ve certainly read worse.

But dude… come on, dude:

The dedication page is a picture of a bunny rabbit in an apron and the page says “For My Mom and Dad.”

The page is presented unironically.

The story, with a SPOILER WARNING: three roommates (a loser, a shitty robot, and that goddamned bunny rabbit) cry themselves to sleep because of how unfulfilling life is (deep!). They embark on boring little side adventures. Then, the loser regains his confidence, and at that precise moment, a young girl approaches him, presumably in order to be his girlfriend; the rabbit suffers “spinal damage” but is HAPPY about it because he gets worker’s comp; the robot becomes happy for some boring reason not even worth explaining. The end!

If you’re mistaking this comic book for autobiography, you need to start talking to actual human beings.

Live! Experience! Take drugs! You! Me! Dancing!

This comic book is not about anything resembling real people. The term you’re groping for is “hipster wish-fulfillment fantasies”.

Are you a “20-something girl” who’s interested in finding out what “really lurks” in the heart of your boyfriend? If so, allow me to explain and save you having to read this comic book: your boyfriend is bored of looking at the back of your head when you have sex, and prays every night that you were someone, anyone else, not because you’re not pretty but just to relieve the overwhelming, all-consuming boredom. You’re welcome.

As for this “it’ll tell you what it’s like if you’re 20” nonsense—that’s just offensive to me. I’m offended by that. This is a comic that invites the reader to imagine that in their early 20’s, they were like an innocent little bunny rabbit that the world didn’t understand. Because, boo hoo, you were different. Oh! Oh, boo hoo for you! Boo hoo for how sensitive and precious you were in your early 20’s. When will people see your inner bunny rabbit?

Fucking horseshit!!

Cut the crap: is that what your early 20’s were like or what you want to think they were like? I don’t think this comic is about depicting anyone’s early adulthood. It’s an invitation for the reader to flatter themselves. The only talent that shows is a talent for lying to the audience. That’s not to be encouraged.

Techniquewise, we could find some praise for the art, maybe. There’s certainly the promise of future growth—I’d never deny that. He draws a pleasing bunny rabbit.

But he also tries to obscure weak drawings and weak compositions behind an oppressive and haphazardly applied grey tone; he’s weak on backgrounds; and storytelling… he has one big move, which is to drop out the backgrounds on a “dramatic” moment. Unfortunately, because he does it on the most overwrought, overly sentimental scenes possible, the effect is more ridiculous and hilarious than dramatic. Also, because he overuses it since it’s his one big move—sometimes he winds up using it for moments that are boring instead of dramatic.

There’s one okay moment in this comic book, involving a little kid using a fake moustache in order to pretend to be a grown-up and score some porn. It’s cute; sort of a weakly funny gag. Is it enough to warrant a 100% Rotten Tomato rating? No. It’s not. It’s a nice moment in a comic otherwise of minimal merit.

Hey, I like some things that other people are sure to hate. I’m completely fucking obsessed with Stevie Might be a Bear, Maybe. I think that’s one of the greatest things, like, ever, even if I realize that it overuses the word “retard” for its humor. You don’t have to go along with me on that one. Or I liked 1-800 Mice #2, which is a bunch of surreal crazy shit with a much less commercial art style and some comedy bits that are more weird than funny. Civil War? Thought it worked out great.

So I can’t blame people for liking this book despite its flaws, or the fact this book struck a chord with all those other people despite its flaws. Or I’m not suggesting to you that I’m “right” and they’re “wrong.” Maybe this book is really great and I’m dead on the inside. There’s plenty of evidence for that. Oh my god!

And I get that, you know— Jeremy Tinder’s a young cartoonist who deserve our gentle encouragement. Hey, Mr. Tinder—I didn’t like your comic at all, but I gently encourage you in your struggle to improve. But to me, that’s just the point. What I suggest to you is the following:

Jeremy Tinder and Top Shelf released a book just this month called Black Ghost Apple Factory. Daily Crosshatch says: “an underground cartoonist who is at the top of his game.” Playback:stl says “frequently laugh-out-loud funny.” The Comics Collective: “a recommended pick-up for its whimsical art and its personal, emo-touched tales.” Indie-pulp: “These stories are full of whimsy and cuteness (like the apple-production method in the title story), but those aspects mask some really poignant observances about life and personal relationships.”

And so on and so on and so on.

What I suggest to you is: I have absolutely no reason to believe any of that is true. And that should be discouraging for Mr. Tinder, for you, for me, for those reviewers, for everybody.

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