How The West Was Fun : Nate Garcia’s “Gecko”

It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but the law of averages dictates that one of these days, Nate Garcia is just gonna take this whole thing too far. His comics about tennis-shoes-wearing cowboy Alanzo Sneak, his horse Sheena for whom he harbors an unhealthy longing and/or obsession, and their anthropomorphic dog pal Huff Deely have consistently straddled the fence between humorously cheesy and downright queasy (with generous side helpings of sleazy and uneasy for good measure), but he’s got this uncanny ability to take you right to the edge and then reel you — and his characters — back in. There’s a frisson of real tension that undercuts these intentionally lame (and, therefore, hilarious) humor strips, but he’s managed to keep the darker impulses of both himself and his coterie of less-than-lovable losers in check. Still, he’s only 21 years old or something — give him time.

And I have to admit, speaking for myself, that I’m curious to see what his iteration of “too far” is going to look like. The overtly “cartoony” nature of his — well, of his cartooning — more or less guarantees that sharp edges are blunted upon delivery, but in a weird way that makes his shit seem even more amoral : like, this is a guy who probably could show a man and a horse making the old beast with two backs (or should that be bestiality with two backs?) and somehow find a way to make the whole thing seem as hysterical as it would be nauseating.

Still, why worry about future eventualities when the present offers such damn good strange fun? And Garcia’s latest, Gecko, certainly is that — not a whole lot happens story-wise, it’s true, but that’s entirely beside the point. Garcia (with a one-page assist at the back of this one from Goiter‘s Josh Pettinger) is more about atmospherics and tonality than narrative ambition, more about the cohesive experience than its reductive elements. The whole has always been greater than the sum of its parts with this Philly-based enfant terrible, and that’s as true as ever here — although those parts deserve special mention.

Specifically, with this new comic Garcia has thrown off the yoke of the magazine format (not that we object to said format around these parts, mind you, but it’s nice to see a self-publishing cartoonist venture out of their comfort zone sometimes) in favor of the old-school A5 (I think, at any rate) ‘zine, and this time he’s opted for a riso-printed cover and full-color interiors. Purely as a physical object, then, this both looks great and feels good to flip through — which rather belies its decidedly modern origins as an Instagram “swipe-though” comic. In fact, petty as it makes me sound, I sorta hope this thing looked like shit on Instagram (I didn’t see it since I don’t have an account on there), because this feels like exactly the right “delivery method” for this material.

As far as what that material consists of, in short : Alanzo stomps on a Gecko, an anthropomorphic Gecko who works at a hamburger stand takes exception to this act of brutality against one of its brethren and — ya know what, I don’t want to give away the fucked-up “joke” that comes after that, so let’s just say Alanzo ends up sicker than hell and leave it at that. And if all that sounds like flimsy grounds to extrapolate a 20-plus-page story from, well — technically speaking you’re absolutely right, but Garcia’s led an extremely charmed life up to now in his still-nascent cartooning career, and that pattern holds true here. There are a couple of punchy little backup strips, as well, so all in all it’s gotta be said that reading this — and oohing and aahing at the art — is a great time.

So go on, pick it up and have precisely that. Nate Garcia is one of our weirder and more wonderful comics auteurs of the moment, and there’s no reason to feel the least bit guilty about liking his impeccably-drawn, curiously folksy bizarre surrealist humor. Not yet, at least.

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Gecko is available for $10.00 from Nate Garcia’s Bigcartel site at https://nategarcia.bigcartel.com/product/gecko

Also, this review — and all others around these parts — is “brought to you” by my Patreon site, where I serve up exclusive thrice-weekly rants and ramblings on the worlds of comics, films, television, literature, and politics for as little as a dollar a month. Subscribing is the best way to support my continuing work, so I’d be very appreciative if you’d give it a look by directing your kind attention to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

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