For the past few years (at least as far as I know), cartoonist Adam Meuse has been self-publishing highly eclectic collections of single-page strips that follow no particular set course other than where his Meuse (sorry, couldn’t resist) takes him, and the results,while predictably uneven, are also predictably unpredictable — and that alone makes them worth checking out. His latest, 2019’s Faults, continues this trend, yet it ups the ante by showing him not just following his sensibilities, but trusting them more implicitly — and as a result, his work is now flirting with “must-read” status.
At least by my accounting, at any rate — and since my opinions are in this driver’s seat around these parts (if nowhere else), that’s what matters here, right? Still, there’s no doubt Meuse has earned the accolades he’s receiving from me, his existential “riffing” on life’s absurdities now casting a fairy wide net and catching in its ropes everything from McDonald’s mascots to hermit crabs to Aztecs to insects to hamsters to cowboys to robots — and just about everything in between. If you like a comic where every page promises something entirely different than the one before, then you’ve come to the right place.
Thematic versatility isn’t the only type on display here, though, as Meuse’s illustration style, while rooted in classical cartooning, bobs and weaves from the fluid and conceptually “loose” to the “scratchy” and faux-slapdash with almost gleeful vigor, and there isn’t much by way of misalignment between “story” (or at least “set-up”) and art. This wasn’t always necessarily the case with his earlier comics, so again, we’ve got clear evidence of an upward creative trajectory here that warrants paying attention to.
As for the humor — and yes, these are, by and large, humor strips — it hits the mark a large percentage of the time, and mostly revolves around constructing obvious laughs out of premises that are uniformly anything but. It takes a few pages, perhaps, to get with the flow — although flow it certainly does — but once you do? You’re happy to go where Meuse takes you, and the number of rapid-fire gags and strips that reward a reasonable (although far from taxing) amount of reflection is nicely balanced. There’s no reinvention of the wheel going on here, but who needs that all the time? “Thoughtful, clever fun” is the order of the day with this full-color mini opus, and around these parts we’re perfectly good with that.
And “perfectly good,” as it happens, is an absolutely fair summation of Meuse’s latest in a general sense — which may sound like damning with faint praise, but certainly isn’t intended as such. After all, how many “perfectly good” comics have you read recently versus stuff that’s just alright, if that? Answer that one honestly and you’ll realize that what our guy Adam has managed to do here is no small feat. The “one-off strip” is a fairly tough thing to get exactly right, especially when you’re leaning pretty heavily on the surreal and bizarre, and to do so consistently takes legit skill. If you choose to discount this thing because it’s “perfectly good,” then shit — that’s your loss.
For my part, I’m more than pleased with Meuse’s continued refinement and development, and am anxious to see where his imagination and increasingly well-honed abilities take him next.
Faults is available for $7.00 from Birdcage Bottom books at https://birdcagebottombooks.com/products/faults
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