What’s Cooking In The “Werewolf By Night Kitchen”?

I’ll give Patrick Keck credit for this much — visually speaking, he knows how to pack a hell of a lot into eight pages.

Deftly-applied rich and inky blacks that belie a woodcut influence on the one end and a DIY “ugly art” aesthetic on the other meet somewhere in the middle to congeal into a truly unique and visceral style, more defiantly “in your face” than Keck’s been in many recent works (folks who only know him from Twilight Of The Bat are gonna be floored), but beyond that, what’s offered here on the day-glo yellow pages of his most recent self-published ‘zine, Werewolf By Night Kitchen, is a decidedly mixed, if intriguing, bag. I think I have a solid grip on what Keck was hoping to achieve with this short-form work — but I’m not at all convinced he manages to pull it off.

Tell you what, though — you really do have to give him points for trying. This is illustration laden with gusto and intent, and definitely glues you by the eyeballs. Unfortunately, it’s employed in service of a rather lackluster “tone poem” that has a certain “outsider literature” tempo and rhythm to it, but no real substance. It’s not the lack of narrative, linear or otherwise, that bugs me — anybody who reads this site knows I don’t need shit to make sense in order to make sense of it — rather, it’s the complete and utter absence of a firm goal with the writing. A wordless comic probably would have been a better way to go here, one that leaves most of the work of interpretation up to the reader. By injecting a threadbare and entirely unnecessary “through-line” into the proceedings by means of clumsily-executed writing (we can debate how intentional or not that clumsiness is), Keck is trying to have it both ways : providing just enough by way of a skeletal structure, but not hanging much over it in order to leave at least something up to the audience.

My advice? Keck should leave a lot more up to us. Imagery like this:

or this :

opens the mind up to lots of possibilities, many of them decidedly uncomfortable, and also proves that Keck is capable of provoking with illustrations either rich in detail or more economically-executed. We know he’s a cartoonist who can deliver the goods. But whether he’s doing highly intricate work or slapping something together quickly, he’s always at his best when he trusts his own instincts, as well as those of his readers. Werewolf By Night Kitchen shows him hedging his bets on both himself and us — and, as such, comes up short on both accounts.

Which, I’m well aware, may sound unduly harsh. As mentioned a moment ago, there’s certainly no lack of effort on display here — but there is a curious and disappointing lack of confidence. Incoherence I can handle just fine — indecision, by contrast, is a fatal flaw in any work.

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All that being said, this comic can be had so cheaply that it may be worth taking a flyer on if only to check out an interesting, if failed, experiment. Keck is selling the book for just two bucks via his Storenvy site, here’s the link :http://patrickkeck.storenvy.com/products/4280339-werewolf-by-night-kitchen

 

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