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Tucker Really Hopes You Like His Reviews Of Comics So Much You Guys

Tucker Stone

Looks like there’s been enough meat-y think posts on here since the last time I checked in. Too bad that they all keep being on comics you cats have all read, right? I thought I’d take a look at some of the 2009 small press stuff, and I totally started on that, and then I got distracted by the fact that a ball of aluminum foil can reflect light. I keep batting it around, but since it’s not really round, I never know what direction it’s going to go in. Here’s three though. They’re all in the Upper Echelon of the Ratings Scale, if you’ve got your computer turned on its side.

Jan’s Atomic Heart
They’re calling this one a graphic novel–it’s got a spine, sure, but it’s pretty short. Guy who did it is 20/21 years old? Name’s Simon Roy.

It’s GOOD.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most in the last year or so was the opportunity to spend some serious time reading a bunch of Future Shocks stories from 2000 AD–it’s a fountain of ideas, a place where guys like Moore, Morrison, Milligan and other dudes without M-names did all kinds of “get out the comics” work. While it doesn’t share any visual sensibilities with the old EC Comics stuff, there’s this sense of work that comes about when you’re catching up on them en masse as opposed to the weekly installments, and that sense is one of the things I like about EC. 2000 AD and its sister-titles, that original EC stuff–that whiny part of my brain starts to shut down when I read them, because I can’t stop thinking about how consistent they were/are with their content. It just kept coming, and in my estimation, EC had a pretty incredible Hit-To-Shit ratio.

Jan’s Atomic Heart has nothing to do with EC, but it reminded me of 2000AD, Bilal’s Memories, all those kinds of random one-shot tales of dirty, rusty futures. It’s a science fiction story about a guy who ends up in a temporary robot body while he’s waiting on his flesh-y one to recover from a car wreck. It has a great ending, which I’m not going to ruin, because it earns its great ending.

This is the first page. It’s like Gipi drawing Otomo.
According to Roy’s comments at CBR, he started the project as an “exercise in environment-building”, and ended up turning out a story while in the midst of drawing stuff. I’d like to say it shows, because that’s sort of what you want to read on a site with “Critics” in the name, correct?

Not really that dude, broseph. I hear tell that you can buy Ng Suat Tong’s attentions with a box of Thin Mints, so look into that. I just liked this comic–I liked it before I found out it was a comic birthed out of screwing around with drawings of buildings and robots, and I liked it even more after that. In its fashion, it’s an old school sort of story–a guy is coming out of the shock of a car wreck, upset because he can’t fit his robot frame into any clothes but sweatpants, and he’s starting to realize that things May Not Be As They Seem. There’s a little of the old Lack of Faith on the part of Roy when it’s time to draw the robot being surprised–he draws a halo of white to indicate “Hey!”–but it’s made up for in the little throwaway panel where the character involuntarily rubs his eye, which, as a robot, he would have no reason to do. It’s a clever, subtle reminder that the body is merely a temporary home, one that Jan wants only to understand, not be assimilated into. By the close, he’s gotten all his answers, and I’ve got one of my own. I want to read more of this guy’s comics. Hope college doesn’t fuck his brain up.

Papercutter # 9
There’s three comics here. The first one is by Aron Nels Steinke, who also gets cover detail. From what I’ve read of Steinke’s work, this is more of that. I don’t care for it, although I think that’s probably just because I find a bit too much of myself in the lazy protagonist. He gets up late and calls his significant other and promises to start going to bed earlier, since she’s already gone off to work like a regular person with values. Then he starts telling her about the dream he has last night, ignores her sweet reprimand to maybe stop, since she doesn’t care. And then, she firmly says “Wait! Stop. I don’t want to hear about this dream anymore.” And he says “Oh I know…but you have to listen. Please.” After he gets off the phone, he gets scared because he thinks there might be a ghost in the house.

Like–I sort of want to kill myself now? And sure, it’s a comic, and you want to know if it looks good…hell, I don’t know. There’s some nice looking pages, but this is one of those small press comics where they draw dots on bare legs to indicate hair. Not my thing. Go ask Alice.

The second comic is a one pager made up of four gag strips, each of which are four panels in length. It’s by Elijah Brubaker, who I quite like. I’d first come across his stuff when I was trying to find a copy of Monkey Wrench, an old anthology comic that featured Ed Brubaker. See, Elijah also has a comic called Monkey Wrench, so when you buy a comic book online sight-unseen called MONKEY WRENCH BRUBAKER, you might end up with the Ed one–which also features Richard Sala & Jason Lutes doing some of those Mega-Genius Comics you hear shut-ins talk about all the time–or you might end up with the Elijah one. Either way, you’re a winner, although you shouldn’t mention that to any of the people involved with the Brubaker/Sala/Lutes comic, because somebody somewhere said the contributors got kinda fucked over by the publisher.

Digressions? You know it. They keep my teeth yellow.

Elijah Brubaker’s contribution to Papercutter, the gag strips: it would be real Iconoclastic and Shitty Critics to say that they’re the best part of the issue. It’d also be a lie, because while they’re quite good, there’s a real Top Dawg Draw here. That little slice of heaven would be Diamond Heights: A True Story, by Hellen Jo. It’s a short, beautifully illustrated piece, ten pages long. A couple of drunk kids–does Hellen Jo draw adults?–get accosted by a couple of barefoot Asian girls in the middle of the night. That’s it, really. You’ll see what’s coming as soon as the girls arrive on the scene, it’s made abundantly clear when a gasp turns into vomiting–and then it goes down, Streets of Gotham style. (You see that recent issue? Paul Dini’s putting kids in cages and pulling the trigger on-panel. I ain’t crying, but jesus man. Can’t Batman punch somebody that doesn’t put babies blood in their milkshake?)

Diamond Heights is similar to Steinke’s ghost story–it’s regular people encountering weird shit–but everything about the delivery system is completely different. There’s no backgrounding to who these people are, and the fact that they’re both drunk puts to question whether the two girls that descend upon them are supposed to be real people or not. It’s brevity makes it that much more potent a story, the sort of anthology installment that is better served by being surrounded by items it doesn’t share an author with–when (and it’s hard for me not to dissociate myself from thinking of this, apologies for that) Hellen’s work achieves “we can make a big hardcover of this” status, Diamond Heights will probably get passed by as a solid, but brief, idea. Here, it’s a fucking story, and it’s a VERY GOOD one. You know how they keep saying Blackest Night is supposed to be a Horror Comic? Man, that shit ain’t scary. It’s dark. It’s violent. But being freaked out by freaky people when you’re alone, just trying to make it home after getting stupid? That’s scary. That shit happens all the time.

Reich # 6
Hey, I used to date this really gorgeous cokehead that was raised in this wacky Wilhelm Reich-ian commune! I don’t know that her coke/cheating-on-me problems stemmed directly from being raised there, but the participants did have a tendency towards being naked around six year olds before the local government sent the cops out to shut ’em down, so here’s a stolen Abhay colon: Highly Likely? But she was a real fox, one of those kind of ladyfriends that made it fun to go to bars, because everything turned into a sarcastic beer commercial with all the bartenders doing a fist-pump and mouthing “You da man, nine-year-old!”

The first time we broke up, it was due to my insistence that she kowtow to my definition of “girlfriend”, which meant someone who had at least as much sex with me as they were having with strangers, be they men/women/drug connections. That commitment was at cross purposes with her Willingness To Maintain Porous Emotional Reich-ian Body Armor, so we parted ways. When she showed up the next morning at my place, she was covered in bruises and openly weeping. Apparently, despondent over the collapse of our terrible relationship, she had gotten drunk with her father the night before–he had directed a Woody Harrelson movie and never fully recovered–and then she’d gone out into the street to drink more, only stopping to lose her purse and get in a fistfight with a cab driver. That kind of romance–it’s the stuff they used to write poems about, you know, back when poets could actually get some ass by being, well, poets. While she couldn’t promise to lay off the cocaine or other people, she did promise to change absolutely nothing, but remain physically attractive and crazy. Although I have no defense for the choice I made, I’ll own up to being really jazzed about the fact that somebody had gone to such lengths for a relationship that neither party seemed to care that much about. Look, I’m a semi-tolerable cocksman, but when it comes down to it, my physical appearance isn’t far removed from what my mother looked like when she was 14. But that’s math, relationships ain’t math. Somebody gets tore up and fights a cabbie after you ask them to stop jumping into bed with strangers? That’s worth working on, especially when you don’t work on it all. 

Oh, Reich the comic? It’s GOOD. Elijah Brubaker did it, clearly he has fonder associations with Wilhelm Reich than I do.


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