Posted by: Graeme McMillan on July 25, 2007
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL #1 is the kind of comic that sticks with you after you read it. Not because it’s a work of genius, mind you; no, this sticks with you because you’re trying to work out why it’s not so much better than it actually is.
It definitely has the ingredients; Gilbert Hernandez doing a melodrama about suburbia and fetishism and sexuality? It should be great, right? And there are parts of it that are great – the core idea, for example, is clever enough to seem worth reading further, and the art is Hernandez’s usual iconic fetishism all of his own (“What if Dan Clowes and Robert Crumb were genetically-melded and drew Archie?”) – but there’s something so crappy in the writing that just makes it almost uncomfortable to read. I mean, look at this dialogue between the main character and her friend:
“She’s just teasing you, Val; she’s really so totally behind you!”
“Yeah, Patty – – Behind me with a strap-on!”
“Not every dyke is after your sweet tail, blue-eyes.”
“These days going lesbo might be preferable.”
“Considering the male company you keep, I’m surprised you didn’t go lesbo a long time ago.”
It’s just horrible, as if Hernandez is secretly hoping to make this into a porn film at some point – an idea that comes back when we see that the main character’s step-mother (who just happens to be a cocktail waitress at some bar where she has to wear fishnets, horns and deviltail) enjoys being watched by the neighborhood peeping tom (who happens to be her step-daughter) while she has sex with her husband, rationalising it with “If he was just a neighborhood kid, he might learn something by watching us – – If he comes back.” Boom chicka wow indeed.
And yet, I keep thinking about the comic after finishing it, disappointed by the pedestrian nature of the execution of what could be something much better. I’m not entirely sure why – the hope that the crappy dialogue and the overly sexualized women are intentional and making some grand point later on, perhaps? The need to not have Hernandez making such a bad comic book, considering his other work? – but I’m sure that that counts for something. I just wish I knew what that something was. A confused Awful.