Hey! Whatcha reading this week? I’ll tell you what stood out, for good ill, in my book pile —
R. Sikoryak breaks the mold and gets contemporary in The Unquotable Trump, done up in old-school “giant size special” format by Drawn + Quarterly, and man oh man is this a humdinger of unfortunate laughs. Real quotes from our shithead-in-chief transposed onto re-creations of classic comic book covers (ranging from Plop! to 300 to Watchmen to X-Men and everything in between) is one of those things that only seems like a “no-brainer” after someone’s already done it, and if that “someone” is Sikoryak, you know you’re in very good hands. I guess he originally did this as a 16-page b&w mini-comic, but 48 lush, gigantic, full-color pages is definitely a big step up and does the material justice. It’s all got a tinge of gallows humor to it right now, but if and when this verbally-flatulent, syphilitic asshole is finally impeached, hopefully we’ll all be able to laugh at this book with no strings attached. Your “must-buy” item of the week, right here. The $20.00 cover price is admittedly steep, but you can find it for $13.00-$14.00 easily enough with little to no effort — and you should.
Noel Freibert is a cartoonist I’m only vaguely familiar with by way of his strips in the last Kramers Ergot, but his new graphic novel from Koyama Press, Old Ground, is more than enough to ensure that he’s firmly on my radar screen from here on out. Frogs, dogs, bats, demolition crew workers, dead kids talking to each other from six feet under — it’s damn hard to describe this one, folks, and you really do just have to go with Freibert’s ever-shifting flow. Black, inky blotches coalesce into shapes and forms only barely recognizable as people, animals, or objects; actions make little to no concrete “sense,” at least as far as we understand the term; events start, stop, start up again with little if any regard to instantly-outmoded notions of linearity; giant 18-wheel trucks become small enough to be kicked by their drivers without explanation — and it all seems both inherently creepy and perversely funny. This book exists in a category of one, defies comparison, and challenges your comprehension at all times — but never, miraculously, your patience. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, then read it again. Might just do the same tomorrow.
I was pretty jazzed for Black Crown Quarterly #1, the debut installment of the centerpiece anthology for Shelly Bond’s new IDW imprint, but now I really can’t remember why. The format’s nice — heavy cardstock cover and thick, glossy paper — but $6.99 for 48 pages is pretty steep, especially when about half the book is promo material that you’ll be able to get for free either online or in the back of other Black Crown books soon enough. Of the original strips on offer, Rob Davis’ “Tales From The Black Crown Pub” is probably the best (although Cindy Whitehead and Nicole Goux’s skateboarding-themed little one-pager is pretty fun, too), a rather cute and charming piece of cartooning that makes the pub at the geographical “center” of this fictitious universe seem a place very much worth exploring, but the other two we’re presented with —one written by CUD bandmates Will Potter and Carl Puttnam and illustrated by Bond’s husband Philip, the other written and drawn by Jamie Coe — are decidedly unimpressive and way too self-consciously “cool,” and the same exact criticisms apply to a short article on Leeds, UK and the interviews with Black Crown creators Tini Howard and Peter Milligan.
The biggest problem here though? The overall Black Crown aesthetic is being defined quickly, and it seems very narrow indeed : Bond’s anglophile and late-’70s punk rock sensibilities might make for a successful series or two, but as the guiding ethos of an entire line? I dunno, seems like things could get pretty repetitive (and dull) pretty quickly, and there’s just about nothing here for a person under, say, 40 years old to relate to. I still have every intention of seeing where Kid Lobotomy goes, and Beto’s art alone makes Assassinistas a guaranteed pull-list addition, but I didn’t need an expensive, overly-pleased-with-itself version of Image+ or Marvel’s Foom! to sell me on those. Who’d have thought that Last Gang in Town, one of the last Vertigo series to go out on Bond’s watch, would serve as the template for the entire next phase of her career?
The last thing worth a mention this week is The Ruff And Reddy Show #1, the latest debut from the DC/Hanna-Barbera partnership. There’s more than a bit of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to this book, with flesh-and-blood humans and animated cartoon characters (known as “celimates”) existing side-by-side, but given that this one’s written by Howard Chaykin, you know there’s going to be extra layers of too-real darkness underpinning that premise, and so there is : the “celimates” are clearly second-class citizens, our two protagonists turn out to never have gotten along, off-color jokes have potentially disturbing implications — yeah, innocence lost is the order of the day across the board.
That being said, dull revisionism is hardly the raison d’etre of this six-parter, methinks. In the manner of Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s The Flintstones (although I’m in no way prepared to say this comic compares to that one in terms of quality — at least not yet), Chaykin seems bound and determined to use the apparently-free reign he’s been given in terms of “re-imagining” these characters as a means for shining a (bright, glaring) light on real-world social ills and inequities. Mac Rey’s animation-cel style artwork couches and even soothes some of the script’s heavier body blows. I think I like where this one is heading.
Okay, I think we’re good for this week. I’ve got a package on the way from John Porcellino’s Spit And A Half, so chances are pretty good that there will be at least a couple of items of interest worth talking next time around in there. See you again in seven!