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Monday, September 24, 2007
I Review In The Nude
Kurohime; by Masanori Ookamigumi Katakura, published by Viz
A book like this straddles the fine line between "parody of the form" and "completely sincere example of," the form here being your typical young man's "let's fight to become better fighters so we can win more fights" comic from Japan. All the ingredients are here; the eager young novice, the annoying side-kick, the ridiculously busty femme-fatale, the comic-relief villains, the Macguffin-quest, and the escalating stakes from battle to battle. It's the twists on the forumla that make this interesting to me. For example, the annoying side-kick and the busty femme-fatale are one and the same, the titular Kurohime, and the Macguffin focuses on her quest to have her curse undone. That her curse requires her to fall in love, and her apprentice/bodyguard/stooge is already in love with her, gives us our excuse for over-the-top violence, heroic self-sacrifice, and silly scenes of people shooting at each other with magic bullets with impressive sounding names. It doesn't take itself seriously, and it comes with an appealing style, to make a package that, while unambitious, is at least entertaining.
This is an appealing little collection of vintage devil-themed post-cards, assembled into an attractive book that showcases the artistry and kooky appeal of these older items of forgotten commercial artistry. That's what I think I find most appealing about this book, that it's focus is not on "high art" but on cheap and disposable commercial art, rarely if ever given a second thought in its own time, but elevated to something more now by age and a renewed interest in the study of cultural artifacts such as these. It's almost that these works become "Art" by the mere act of being bound together and presented as a collection of material worthy of serious study and inquiry.
XXX Scumbag Party; by JOhnny Ryan, published by Fantagraphics
To paraphrase what a better critic than I once wrote, if you like incest, rape, sodomy, cannibalism, degenerency, then this is the comic for you. However, it is not the comic for me. It's not that anything Ryan writes or draws here offends me. No, for me, Ryan commits a far greater sin; he isn't funny. At all. His cartooning is unremarkable and imitative of better artists, and while straddling that fine line that sick and gross-out humor must always walk, Ryan takes so much time trying to be as offensive as possible, to top the last outrageous thing he drew, that he completely forgets that he's supposed to be drawing a humor book.
Shortpacked! is easily one of my favorite web-comics, especially of those that deal with geek-centric humor. Given that David Willis' strip holds no romantic fantasies about the basic goodness or rationality of "fandom", it shouldn't be hard to guess why. Willis is able to balance both character driven drama, and humor, and still manages to mix in brilliantly surreal jokes about Batman, Transformers, and other geeky obsessions. The primary emphasis is on toys and toy collectors, but there's more than enough comic and video game overlap to make those jokes enjoyable and appropriate as well. Hey, look, bottom line: it's something I enthusastically and unreservedly dig. You realize how rare that is?