Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
We’re at zero. Momentum wasted. Team scattered. Different pictures fill the frames.
The same itch persists, hungry as ever, though slightly hesitant.
Saturday. A decision.
It’s all start-up, from here. Can’t see any finish line. Don’t want to. Let’s drift, you and I. Drift til we flip.
Listening the whole way.
I shave my head. Eight months’ worth of curly, brown shit hits the sink, and all stress goes with it. The sun licks the skin atop my skull; my scalp tingles. Lemon-y fresh.
A savage ordeal, though, before the clean. The tangle of that self-grown mess fights violently. It’s not ready to surrender, doing its best to clog the shifting razor blades whipping back and forth on those electric clippers. But I manage. After a short recharge of the battery, the clippers plunge back under, coming up with scared, homeless threads. They writhe spastically at the contact of new air, and a light shrill wafts into nothing.
“Drown ‘em with the faucet.”
Down they go, slashing at the waves into the mouth of the drain. The fuckers. Repeat, repeat, repeat. The clippers edge further, and the process rolls on. Half hour. The process rolls on.
“Where I’m Going Tonight, No One Can Ever Hurt Me”
We’ve done this before. I’ve hammered out critical responses to comicbooks, and you’ve skimmed them for whatever particular reason you hold. It’s how we work, forever and ever.
After detaching from comics criticism eight months ago though, another swing seems like a mistake. It’s a distraction unwarranted solely suffered by that of the chooser. Other means of expression have come along, and with USA Today all concerns of a byline are covered. So why? Why the fuck invest the time?
Well, it’s fun. Simple as that. A tall stack of comics still need read, and I’m the guy to do it. Writing about them just comes with the process. It’s a back and forth, after all – a give and take like any art.
The Workbook is the record of said back and forth. It’s the dialogue between comicbooks and I, a discussion eight years in the making. And when the stack’s dry, I’m dry. Out to greener pastures with all of this behind me.
So with that, invisible audience, let’s review. No more style. No more narcissism. The books, the books. Let’s read the books.
Certainly Shawn Starr has already reviewed this, and certainly he praised it before following up with some sort of disgusting, body fluid-laced punch line. Or, Shawn kept it short. Maybe: “Josh Simmons is fucking awesome.”? You never know with Shawn, but more than likely it was one of the two options. Or both.
But, for the time being, this review will agree with Mr. Starr. Josh Simmons undoubtedly embodies “fucking awesome,” and while Training doesn’t supply the same gut reaction Flayed Corpse delivers, it still offers Simmons piss-drenched sense of humor through manner of crude circumstance and blood. It’s possibly reserved in the context of Simmons’s entire catalog, yet such sacrifice opens the cartoonist’s (and audience’s) attention to visual direction and motion, instead.
Movement dominates this piece. Whether it’s the main character’s struggle to rise from the ground and stand, or the amount of panel space dedicated to running, jumping and kicking, Training works to move a reader’s eye from the get-go. It wastes not a second, taking even 2/3’s of the cover to tell story than position a decadent logo or pinup. And Simmons responds with his choice of angle. He places emphasis to what degree we watch the story, but more or less he goes with the spectrum ends, throwing our eyes above or below his actors. He wants you to feel the position of the “camera,” and the technique builds the claustrophic sensation of Simmons’s setting. His above or below angling also asserts Training’s theme of dominance and height, and the story’s continuous movement exhausts our character, tying in the comicbook’s title.
These practices are noticeable in Flayed Corpse, but they’re overshadowed by other elements. Here though, Simmons’s ability to illustrate position and motion shine, and it’s fun. For a buck, it’s worth picking up. Oily Comics seems to be developing a relationship with Simmons. This is his second work from the publisher, and a longer one should be out soon. It’s cool to see, I’d say. Long live the micro-publisher.
Happy! #1 – 4
Grant Morrison | Derrick Robertson
Joey Aulisio called last night. Late. Maybe 11:30 p.m. The scent of whiskey and ginger ale strongly resonated from far-off New York, and he uttered something about molly, though I couldn’t confirm. He began our conversation by exclaiming his contempt for makeshift excuses before labeling me a “rat-fucking Jew menace.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” I shouted.
He lacked any response. The booze had ruined his normally tack-sharp wit, and you could tell his feet were ready to give way. Good. The bastard needed to sit down. I had little time for this drunken phone call business. I had a column to write!
Though, Aulisio managed to share some wisdom on the subject of Grant Morrison and Derrick Robertson’s Happy! before sinking further into the bottle, so I pulled out the recorder, figuring to tape his observations for later use. What follows is a complete transcription of our conversation.
AB: So Happy! … I finally read it. I don’t know … this was a disappointment. Fine, but a disappointment.
JA: A goddamn missfiree. The crowds were ready. I told you! They were there for a launch, and the bald fuck gave ‘em leftovaas.
AB: You mean Morrison launching at Image?
JA: Yeah. A big deal, but that shit read like some Vertigo push-off bitch shit he did in the early 00s. No one cares now.
AB: It felt more or less like a retread of Morrison constants: imagination, light v. dark, defeat of cynicism … I get what he was after, writing his version of It’s A Wonderful Life, but nothing about it really sold those issues.
JA: Nope. *hiccups*. Not a damn thing. That fuckin’ blue horse was cheap thrill seekin’.
AB: So are you sour on Morrison at the moment?
JA: Nah! You know me. I like the guy, forever. I like Happiness jus fione. A disappointment is all. Coulda went big with that launch. Whipped his dick out and pissed the ground wet.
The recording ends.
Drunk as he was, Aulisio made a good point. Happy! wasn’t strong enough to follow the hype generated by the Image Comics stamp, and it may have shown Morrison in a position of comfort rather than artistic trial. Which is concerning. Because he’s really in a position of command. He could whirl the entire pool on its head – especially within the Image wheelhouse where rules are self-imposed. But Happy! recycled what we know of the writer, and it more or less aided critics currently set against Morrison, further fueling claims of “hacking it out.” As Aulisio says, “a goddamn missfire.” What a shame.
What could have been the intention from Morrison? Aulisio claims Happy! is old material, left over from a stint at Vertigo, but a man on molly is no man to trust. Still, he’d made a good point about Image, so maybe there’s credence to his claim. But even then, why publish old material? Wouldn’t it suit a man like Morrison to create new material? I don’t really buy it. It all seems odd.
Outside of Image, Happy! could stand as a decent, entertaining enough comicbook, but in its marketed context the book no doubt falls short. The lone standout is the coloring of the blue horse, Happy, who’s vibrant, aura-like blue seeps through the paper. That was something to look at.
Oh well. It’s been read and tossed to the dogs. An omission in the Morrison catalog, if I’d ever seen it. Not everything wows. Not everything can.
And so concludes this introductory column. Hopefully you made it through. I’ll write another one when the time is right. For now, satisfaction has me. Not a goddamn bit of AP style, in sight.
Follow Alec on Twitter. @Alec_Berry
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