Everything Old Is New Again : David Tea’s “Bronze Table Of The Blade Masters” (A.K.A. “Five Perennial Virtues” #6)

In 2007, to the notice of probably no one apart from a few of his local Minneapolis-area friends, “outsider” cartoonist David Tea released issue number six of his sporadically self-published Five Perennial Virtues digest-sized series. In 2017, for reasons known only to himself, he’s re-releasing it, plus a bunch of old sketches, under the title of Bronze Table Of The Blade Masters. This is something we should all be very happy about.

The reasons why we ought to be so are hard to quantify, of course, but then so is Tea’s work — eschewing basically every established rule of cartooning more, it seems, out of necessity than any sort of deliberate design, one could fairly argue that nothing happens in this comic, but then it really doesn’t need to in order for it to be interesting, simply because its aesthetic, its construction, its very reason for being is almost impenetrable; it is what it is and it harbors no pretenses toward being anything else. It’s a pure transmission of artistic intent on the part of the person who made it, and he made it because he could, full stop.

I’m not tremendously enamored of detailed plot synopses in my reviews, even for comics that are easily-discernible straight lines from A to B, but details are almost inconsequential when it comes to Tea: if you absolutely must know, the “story” here revolves around our protagonist/author meeting up with two “friends”— one of them being an Octopus, the other a cactus —  at a coffee shop, where he proceeds to regale them with a brief historical harangue about the Spartans, declare their table to be the “Bronze” one of the title, and then lead them into adventures we never see and probably don’t matter. So there’s your recap, but it’s not like much of what makes this book so genuinely intriguing stems from the story itself — all of that is to be found in how the story is presented.

Book-ended with new intro and outro pages “delivered” by the trademark FPV symbol, and interrupted at seemingly utterly random points with several pages of slap-dashed sketchbook work, there is an intuitive rhythm to these proceedings that makes no particular logical sense but nonetheless feels right, perhaps in spite of itself — in a world where rules don’t apply, newly-imposed ones will suffice in their place, but it’s not like Tea even bothers coming up with any; his “clip-art” style backgrounds, his entirely-expository dialogue, his curious repeated use of dice as a motif, it’s all just there. And yet, taken as a whole, you can’t envision this work as being anything other than what it is, reasons why be damned.

I can’t claim any special insight into Tea’s creative process, nor do I feel particularly compelled to divine one based on the evidence he may or may not provide in his finished product — I accept this comic, and all of his others, on their own terms, and stand in a kind of quiet awe at the way in which he frankly allows no other choice; the nature of his creativity is such that it arrives to audiences entirely unfiltered and unmediated, necessarily raw, and yet sophisticated in a way that mere technical prowess can never begin to approximate. You hear the word auteur a lot — here is its working definition writ large.

But please, whatever you do, I implore you not to take my word for it (how weird is it for a critic to say that?) — experience this comic for yourself, as unlike most of Tea’s work it’s available outside the Twin Cities (as is the book pictured above, his expanded reprint version of Five Perennial Virtues #2), and should really be filtered through your own individual lens and processed and interpreted by means of your unique sensibilities. You may love this stuff as I do, you may hate it, but either way it’s safe to say you’ve never seen anything else like it.

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Bronze Table Of The Blade Masters sells for $6 from — where else? — Domino Books. Order it directly at http://dominobooks.org/fivevirtues6.html

And while we’re tossing out links, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only enables me to keep it going, it also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a moment to check it out and consider joining up by pointing your trusty browser to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/10/2019 – 03/16/2019

First issues : they’re what we do around here. In fact, it seems like nothing else even comes out anymore. Here are four more from this past Wednesday alone —

Image’s Little Bird #1 kicks off a five-part epic of dystopian sci-fi (one that’s not slated to be collected in trade — which is remarkable given that’s how most Image creators get paid) with some Native American folklore around the edges about a child soldier on a post-apocalyptic Earth fighting on behalf of indigenous peoples vs. an oppressive religious totalitarian state. Screenwriter/director Darcy Van Poelgeest handles the scripting duties with superstar artist Ian Bertram of House Of Penance providing the illustration and colorist extraordinaire Matt Hollingsworth on hues. This opening salvo has terrific “world-building,” breathtaking action sequences, stunningly detailed art, and beautifully evocative colors. It also boasts a higher-than-usual page count, slick paper, and heavy-duty cardstock covers. A superb value at $3.99 — hell, just a superb comic altogether. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Also from Image in general, and Robert Kirkman’s Skybound label in particular, we have Assassin Nation #1, the opening salvo in a new ongoing written by superb-cartoonist-in-his-own-right Kyle Starks and drawn and colored by popular former Unbeatable Squirrel Girl artist Erica Henderson. A smart and fun “piss-take” on the “ultravioelnce” subgenre that focuses on the formerly number-one-ranked assassin in the world hiring as many of his previous competitors as possible to protect his own ass when he comes under threat,  we start out with 20 world-class assassins here (current rankings are displayed on the opening title page), but end up with a lot less after a gloriously over-the-top bloodbath. At first I thought that Starks, specifically, was punching well below his own weight class with this one, as he’s best known for both writing and drawing his own stuff, but I’m happy to say that assumption was entirely off-base as he and Henderson make for a great team and have produced a comic that wrings plenty of entertainment value out of each of the 399 pennies you’ll spend on it. Well worth getting in on this from the jump.

Writer Magdalene Visaggio is a positively ubiquitous presence on LCS new-release racks lately (we just talked about her new Oni Press series Morning In America last week), and while her stuff can be hit-or-miss for me, Calamity Kate #1, the first chapter in a four-parter from Dark Horse, was her most direct “hit” yet, offering a delightful mash-up of banal relationship drama (protagonist has just been through a painful break-up and is overstaying her welcome crashing on a long-suffering friend’s couch) with monster-hunting. This world feels every bit as workaday and bog-standard as our own, only there’s dragons and Kaiju and shit everywhere. The Girl In The Bay (another Dark Horse book I absolutely love) artist Corin Howell turns in more of the supremely confident and highly eye-catching illustration that we’re quickly becoming accustomed to from her in this one, and colorist Valentina Pinto eschews the flashy in favor of the wholly functional, resulting in a comic that looks every bit as good as it reads. Another four dollars very well spent.

Finally, DC brings us a cash-grab (and a $4.99 cash-grab, at that) one-shot called The Batman Who Laughs : The Grim Knight #1, a spin-off of the current The Batman Who Laughs mini-series which is itself a spin-off of Dark Nights : Metal. If you can keep up with all that, you’re doing better than me, as I couldn’t make head or tail of Scott Synder and James Tynion IV’s story about some “alternate universe” Batman who uses guns and spy-camera technology to not just “protect” Gotham City, but basically take the place over and prevent any and all crime by preventing any and all freedom. I wasn’t here for the story, though — I was here for the art, courtesy of the legendary Eduardo Risso and best-in-the-biz colorist Dave Stewart. Lush, cinematic, and gorgeous, this book looks like a million bucks, so I guess it was worth spending five on, but I wish DC would put this first-rate tandem to use on better projects than one-off continuity circle-jerks like this. Which, I guess, is my way of saying that this is a pretty shitty comic, but sure doesn’t dress the part. I can ogle over just about any page in this thing for hours.

And that should about do it for another Weekly Wrap-Up. Just enough time left to, of course, remind you that this column is “brought to you” each and every week by my Patreon page, where I offer exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there allows me to keep things going and also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. Check it out and join up today at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

The Sweet Sting Of “Billie The Bee”

Can it be? Or should that read “can it bee”?

It seems impossible that Mary Fleener’s new Fantagraphics-published hardcover book, Billie The Bee, could be her first proper “graphic novel,” and yet — that’s precisely the case. It took me a minute to wrap my head around that fact, as I’ve been reading Fleener’s stuff literally since I was a kid (I know, I know — I had no business owning copies of Wimmen’s Comics and Slutburger Stories when I was 13 or 14 years old, but I could say the same for any number of “underground” comics I was able to get my hands on at that age) and her singularly earnest, no-holds-barred work has been a constant in my reading life. I guess if you’d pressed me prior to this as to whether or not she’d done an “OGN,” my answer would have started with “Now that you mention it,” and ended with “surely she must have,” with some variation on “I don’t recall reading one, but” smack-dab in the middle.

It’s time to cast mistaken assumptions aside, though, and enjoy this long-time-coming moment for what it is.

By turns humorous, educational, and melodramatic, Billie The Bee is a perfect vehicle for Fleener to address ecological concerns near and dear to her heart, position herself within a historical continuum  starting with Walt Kelly’s Pogo and continuing on through Jeff Smith’s Bone and Jon Lewis’ True Swamp (in point of fact, she wrote the introduction to the second Uncivilized Books collection of Lewis’ seminal 1990s series), and maybe even to introduce herself to a new generation of readers that will be no-doubt enriched by familiarizing themselves with the work of a justly-legendary talent. And if it meets withe the critical and commercial success it deserves, who knows? Maybe we’ll all be treated to a latter-day creative resurgence from a pioneering talent.

That’s my hope, at any rate, and while this book is certainly a stylistic and thematic departure for a cartoonist best known for her autobiographical stories, she’s nevertheless immediately and obviously comfortable operating within the confines of the “funny animal” genre. Protagonist Billie — a musically-inclined honeybee with an outgoing personality and a genuine love for her free-wheeling life — is affable, smart, quick-witted, and just plain fun, while supporting characters such as dirty-minded turtle sisters Flo and Mo, Kay the gentle fox, and Rayleen the surprisingly-amiable rattlesnake are all unique and relatable “person”alities that each bring charm to the page and a smile to readers’ faces, their San Diego marshland home a thoroughly engaging updating of Okefenokee Swamp.

It’s also a perilous environment, though, or should I say it becomes one thanks to some careless humans introducing into its delicately-balanced ecosystem a pack of — nah, that would be telling. And when Mother Nature tries to “course-correct” the situation on her own by means of natural disaster, it’s up to Billie to assume a leadership role if she, the rest of her hive, and her extended, multi-species “family” hope to survive and adapt. Is she up to the task?

Fleener’s cartooning is as solid as ever here, distinctive linework, precise cross-hatching, expressive faces, and well-timed phantasmagorical explosions of her trademark cubism combining to create a visual storytelling experience that is by turns familiar and surprising, comfortable and joyously confounding. It’s a compelling and delightful book to read, no question, but perhaps an even more compelling and delightful one to look at.

Fleener’s firing on all cylinders here, telling a story she’s clearly been putting a great deal of thought and preparation into for who knows how long. There’s an awful lot of heart on clear display in Billie The Bee, and it’s this critic’s honest belief that even the most jaded and cynical readers will likely find themselves utterly delighted by it.

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We close things up with a reminder that this review, as well as all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. So what are you waiting for? Join up already! Please?

Oh, here’s a link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Eurocomics Spotlight : Rikke Villadsen’s “The Sea”

Lost at sea, adrift at sea, swept away by the sea — any and all of these cliches will likely apply to readers of Danish cartoonist Rikke Villadsen’s The Sea, a physically-short but conceptually-dense graphic novel originally published in the artist’s home country in 2011 but only within the last few months making its way to the English-speaking world courtesy of Fantagraphics.

Which is to say, I suppose, that it’s easy to get pulled into the world this book either conjures and/or creates (depending on just how literally one chooses to view the tale it relates), yet impossible to find any firm footing within it.

For my part, I tend to take the proceedings herein as purely allegorical, but your willingness to do so — as well as whatever mileage you get from it — may indeed vary, and that’s all well, good, and more than likely Villadsen’s intention. I mean, we are talking about a seafaring yarn about a fisherman (or, as he insists, a “sailor”) who nets a newborn baby and a talking fish from the murky depths.

Truth be told, it’s Villadsen’s wistful, smoky, borderline-mystical pencil work that not only sets, but ultimately sells, the tone of the book itself, the sparse scripting being the kind of thing that likely could be interpreted in just about any manner visually, but only works when infused with, even subsumed by, the ephemeral. Like deciphering the meaning of a probably-vivid dream that immediately begins to fade upon waking, you reach for message, for meaning, only to find it tantalizingly out of your grasp — even as its essential character clings, romantic and ultimately frustrating in equal measure.

The primary responsibility of both fish and baby appears to be hacking away at the grizzled seafarer’s crusty, hardened worldview in piecemeal fashion, while concurrently the mystery of their origins — and perhaps the self-described sailor’s own — plays out in non-linear fashion, their tag-team efforts at de-mythologizing the old-timer’s past (specifically his memories of his mother) ironically adding a greater tinge of the mystical to his syrupy reminiscence, sure, but also to the present and maybe even to the future.

Which, ultimately, is what I think Villadsen is steering this boat of hers towards, deliberately rickety as it may be. The old giving way to the new, yes, but also continuing on, should one care yo see it that way — not so much negated by the act of succession as re-invigorated by it. What was it Marlon Brando’s Jor-El character said in Superman : The Movie? “The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son”? Something like that.

Not that we’re talking strict blood relatives here, Villadsen’s not serving up anything so obvious. Hell, this may not even be about succession in a strictly generational sense, more a broad-based, conceptual one. Letting go, moving on, so that life may move forward, the past remembered — correctly or less than — while the weight of its baggage is, well, tossed overboard.

Sure, it’s not going without a fight, that’s understandable, but it knows when its time is up — as surely as I know that a damn good time for you to read The Sea would be right about now.

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We close things up with a reminder that this review, as well as all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only keeps things going, it also ensures a steady stream of new content both here and at my trashfilmguru movie site. So what are you waiting for? Join up already! Please?

Oh, here’s a link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

The Alchemy Of Opposing Forces : Daria Tessler’s “Cult Of The Ibis”

The generally-held view of the ancient mystical pseudo-scientific practice of alchemy is that it was all about turning lead into gold, but my understanding is that this is a rather limited “piece” of the overall alchemical project, which was largely concerned with creating that which didn’t exist before through the union of opposite polarities : male/female, animate/inanimate, precious metal/base metal, etc. Even that’s probably selling the whole “art” short, mind you, but for purposes of this review and its subject — Daria Tessler’s newly-released Fantagraphics Underground fancy hardcover graphic novel Cult Of The Ibis — it’ll do in a pinch.

We’ve lavished praise upon Tessler’s gorgeous riso-printed publications from Perfectly Acceptable Press on this site previously, but how well her rich, intricate style would translate both into the confines of more traditional “comic book” storytelling and, crucially, into black and white was an intriguing question for this critic as I went into this one, especially given that I didn’t read the two (I believe, at any rate) self-published single issues that constitute the first good chunk of it — but any concerns I may have momentarily entertained were dispelled with one look at her detailed, richly-textured pages that delineate a world right out of a Fritz Lang film, all mystical proto-“steampunk” cityscapes and biological curiosities oozing with the allure of the genuinely, even the conceptually, forbidden.

Hell, her nameless protagonist even reminded me of Peter Lorre, despite looking nothing like him.

The general character of the book itself can be summed up as an “alchemical caper,” as our amateur practitioner of the so-called “Great Work” pulls off a bank heist and then burns his debtors/crime partners by blowing the loot on a homemade, do-it-yourself homunculus kit, the pursuit — and eventual ascertainment — of which sends him spiraling into a hitherto-unseen mental and physical netherworld where what’s “real” or not is not only entirely subjective, but probably of little consequence in the scheme of things : it’s happening, and at some point whether the “playing field” of events is entirely within the hapless schlub’s mind or in the already-fantastical world he inhabits really stops being a point of concern.

Which is probably a roundabout way of giving Tessler a pretty damn grandiose, and entirely well-deserved, compliment : her visual storytelling sucks you in and doesn’t let you go, offering no option but for you to meet it on its own terms, but navigate your way through according to your perceptions and/or interpretations. That’s the kind of thing I’m always going to dig, of course, but like any alchemist, it is Tessler’s method that is fascinating as her finished work.

Which brings us back to that whole concept of the union of opposites : Tessler’s narrative is a study in contrasts, chief among them being single-panel “splash” pages vs. densely-packed (yet quite visually fluid) grids; extended wordless sequences vs. text-heavy (and archaically-scripted) mock “articles” from a bargain-basement “alchemy for beginners” magazine; solid buildings and streets vs. amorphous, transitory physical beings; easily-identifiable establishments such as bars and shops vs. the entirely indescribable patrons and goods within them. It’s a gutsy move, one that inherently reflects her book’s subject matter, and Tessler stakes the entire project on her ability to transmute these disparate elements into something greater, even altogether other, than the sum of its parts.

As to whether or not she pulls it off — that’s going to depend largely on any given reader’s own sensibilities, but for my money (or maybe that should be gold), she not only does so, but frankly manages to create something borderline-magnificent and utterly unique unto itself. I can see where a certain amount of frustration, even of disappointment, might enter into the equation for many a thoughtful and attentive adept seeking to crack the visual codes and mysteries on offer here, so oblique and left open to pure possibility are many of story’s key events, but if you’re ready to continue engaging with the book even after you’ve closed its covers — to let it wash over you and sink in before cracking it open and having another go — I think you’ll find that its after-effects are, if anything, just as mystical, perplexing, and wondrously confounding as its contents.

There are probably many good words one could use to describe a work of art that engenders this sort of careful consideration on both an intellectual and emotional level, but the one that seems most appropriate for this occasion, at least to my mind, is magical.

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We close things up with a quick reminder that this review, as well as all others around these parts, is “brought to you” by my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, film, television, literature, and politics. Lately, it’s been a lot of politics. Your support there not only helps to keep things going, but also enables me to keep a steady stream of free content coming both here and at my trashilmguru movie site, so join up already! Please?

Oh, here’s a link : https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

 

Weekly Reading Round-Up : 03/03/2019 – 03/09/2019

Another week, another stack of first issues. It’s like it’s getting to be a pattern or something. Or maybe it has been for the last, I dunno, ten years or so —

The so-called “Black Hammer Universe” at Dark Horse keeps expanding, but Black Hammer ’45 #1 is its most radical “step out of the nest” yet, re-purposing the label to apply not to a solitary hero, but to a Blackhawk-esque WW II flying squadron, the members of which all hailed from diverse backgrounds — thus, sadly, ensuring they never really got their due. Split between the present day and the latter stages of the conflict in the European Theater, Ray Fawkes’ script (Jeff Lemire is on hand only as co-plotter) concerns a top-secret mission to rescue a family of scientists from Nazi captivity, but it looks like it’s probably gonna be another tale focused on Third Reich occult shenanigans. I’m all for that in this instance as it makes for an interesting, well-paced yarn with some serious mystery underpinning it (why do the surviving “Black Hammers” get together every year on the same day?), but it’s the wistful, inherently nostalgic art of Matt Kindt and colorist wife Sharlene that’s the major draw here, and that makes the $3.99 expenditure well worth it. Where these two go, I follow, this being no exception.

Also from Dark Horse we’ve got Astro Hustle #1 from writer Jai Nitz and artist Tom Reilly, a deliriously fun mash-up of  old-school 2000AD, kung fu movies, and swashbuckler tropes that I’m already wishing was slated to last longer than four issues. Fans of books like Wasted Space and Outer Darkness will find a lot to like here, as this tongue-in-cheek tale of old grudges, corporate overlordship, weird sex, and jailbreaks is right in that same sort of wheelhouse. Nitz’s characters are instantly memorable and quick with a comeback, Reilly’s art is dynamic and unique in equal measure, and the colors by Ursula Decay (I’m assuming their birth certificate reads differently) are vibrantly off-kilter and highly effective. Buckle in, this promises to be a blast.

Over at Boom! Studios, writer Greg Pak follows up his acclaimed Mech Cadet Yu with Ronin Island #1, a collaboration with artist Giannis Milonogiannis that sees the multi-cultural titular island facing invasion from a probably-illegitimate Samurai force, with two young martial arts prodigies/competitors having to joining forces to lead the defense of their home. The story for this one seems fairly basic — which I don’t mean as an insult, as it’s executed quite nicely — but, again, this is a comic where the art steals the show, all rich detail, lush composition, fluid action, and cinematic Ps OV. Great-looking stuff that guarantees I’ll be sticking around for the ride.

Finally, Oni Press serves up Morning In America #1 courtesy of writer Magdalene Visaggio and artist Claudia Aguirre, a 1980s-set YA supernatural mystery that’s maybe a bit on the “Stranger Things with a female cast” side, but might have a little splash of John Carpenter’s They Live and/or Larry Cohen’s The Stuff  bleeding in at the margins, as well. Local high school “bad girls” cracking the mystery of a rash of disappearances connected to the one and only new factory in their economically-depressed Ohio town sounds good enough to keep me interested for at least a couple of issues to see how things develop, and Visaggio’s characterization and dialogue are both strong, while Aguirre’s illustration is crisp, atmospheric, and rendered in just enough to detail to draw you in without belaboring the point. This is a really nice-looking work from a name I wasn’t, to my chagrin, familiar with before now. Solid stuff that’s not too taxing, and gives you four bucks’ worth of entertainment value for your money.

And that’s another Wrap-Up — well, wrapped up. We’re knee-deep in yet another “Snowpocalypse” here in Minneapolis (they seem to happen every week these days), but I’m sure I’ll make it to the comic shop on Wednesday to see what new wares are worthy of examination in our next column. Until then, we close with the now-customary plug for my Patreon page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly ramblings on the worlds of comics, film, television, literature, and politics. Joining is cheap and you get plenty of content for your money. Please take a moment to check it out at :https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

Like Catching Fish In A Barrel : Chloe Handler’s “Astonishing Gaters”

Are some targets too easy?

Well, yeah, I suppose they are, and given that the reactionary fan “movement” that bills itself as “comicsgate” pretty much exists entirely within the realm of unintentional self-parody, one could be forgiven for actively wondering what need there even is to poke fun at this bunch of sad MRA/alt-right/incel clowns who have so much free time on their hands that they can do things like “review-bomb” the new Captain Marvel movie because its lead actress “doesn’t smile enough,” or mercilessly hound female Marvel staffers for months because they had the temerity to go out for a milkshake one day and post a “selfie” of it.

In point of fact, the only people who don’t find these morons to be absolutely insufferable are “comicsgate” partisans themselves, and any comic written and drawn for the express purpose of lampooning them may, to the reasonable outside observer, seem not only unnecessary, but inherently less capable of exposing so-called “CGers” as the assholes they are than the very clear image painted by dint of their own words and action.

Enter cartoonist Chloe Handler, whose self-published (under the auspices of her Deabte Me! Comics imprint) Astonishing Gaters aims to, at the very least, put a bit of fun back into the always-aggravating task that is “comicsgate pushback,” and in that respect, the timing of its release couldn’t be more perfect — because recent months have seen some of the more prominent members of “CG” decide that they’d probably make pretty good comics publishers themselves.

Results, needless to say, have been, if anything, even worse than expected, with what few books they’ve actually released tending to ship extremely late and be of embarrassingly poor quality, and Handler actually begins her comic with a nod in that very direction, via a spot-on incisive parody of Richard C. Meyer and Ibai Canales’ monumentally stupid and worthless Iron Sights, and from there segues into a tale about high-profile “Gaters”such as Ethan Van Sciver (here stood in for by a morbidly obese character known as Steven Von Scribbler) and Meyer himself (or, as handler would have it, Harold S. Palmer — and yes, most of the humor on offer here is this obvious) donning super-hero costumes and setting out to “make comics great again.”

On the other side of the “culture war” battle stands a hodge-podge of actual heroes either of Handler’s own creation, loosely based on characters, such as the “new” She-Ra, that are known to drive out basement-dwelling keyboard warriors into a mouth-foaming rage, or ones based far less loosely on personages known to successfully antagonize and/or dress down “CG” on social media like Renfamous and SJW Spider-Man. And, really, that’s about all you need to know.

Truth be told, Handler herself is absolutely straightforward about her book’s plotlessness in a bit of Fourth Wall-busting dialogue early on, but it’s not like you’re here for the story in the fist place — you’re here for the laughs, and I’ll be damned if Astonishing Gaters doesn’t provide them in generous supply.

The art and colors are’t exactly going to make you forget Jack Kirby or Steve Oliff, respectively, mainly being competent but unspectacular digital renderings, but for what they need to do — exaggerate (though not by much) the repulsive physical characteristics of the book’s “any similarity to persons living or dead unless used for satiric intent” targets — it gets the job done just fine, and they certainly don’t neuter the book’s sharp observations in any appreciable manner. All Handler’s cartooning need to be is competent in order to achieve its aims, and it clears that threshold without too much trouble. It’s not “pro” work, but it’s a thousand times more technically sound than anything we’ve seen from “comicsgate” so far.

Besides, this is one of those comics whose main “drawing power” is its humor, and while its not aiming its jokes at a mass audience, those who know the score with “comicsgate” and find themselves understandably sickened by it will be pleased to know that, what the hell — it hits the mark consistently, from Palm/Meyer’s assumption of the title of Captain Incel to a criminal act of vandalism committed against a comic shop by nameless, faceless, “sock puppet” twitter accounts. Anyone who’s mixed it up with these dipshits online will recognize all of it, but Handler points out, then plays up, the absurdity of it all in such a way that it all seems more funny than it is perpetually annoying, so for those of us feeling a bit fatigued by banging our heads against the brick wall — or maybe that should be a brick gate — this book definitely makes for a nice re-invigoration of our inner fortitude reserves.

All of which is, I suppose, to say that Astonishing Gaters is a book with a very narrow remit that will likely only appeal to a very narrow readership. But if that narrow readership includes you? You’re likely to absolutely love it.

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This comics isn’t cheap — $25 — but if it sounds like the kind of thing that would be your kind of thing, odds are you’ll find it money well-spent. You can order it from Chloe Handler’s Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/listing/672632124/astonishing-gaters-trade-paperback?ref=shop_home_active_1&crt=1

Also, this review — and all others on here — are “brought to you” by my Pateron page, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Your support there not only keeps the whole thing going, it also ensures a steady stream of free content both here and on my trashfilmguru movie site. Please take a moment to check it out at https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse