Jack of Fables: Jack of Hearts

By Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges, Tony Akins, Steve Leialoha & Andrew Pepoy (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84576-628-3

In case you didn’t know, Fables are refugee fairytale, storybook and legendary characters who (which?) fled to our mundane Earth from their various mythic realms to escape a mysterious and unbeatable Adversary. Disguising their true natures from humanity they created enclaves where their immortality, magic and sheer strangeness (all the talking animals are sequestered on a remote farm in upstate New York) would not threaten the life of uneasy luxury they built for themselves. Many of these immortals wander the human world, but always under injunction never to draw any attention.

In Fables: Homelands the utterly self-absorbed and absolutely amoral Jack of the Tales (everyman hero of Beanstalk, Giant-killer, Be Nimble fame) did just that by stealing Fabletown funds and becoming a movie producer, creating the three most popular fantasy films of all time, based on (his version) of his life, consequently drawing physical power from the billions who inadvertently “believed” in him – and coining vast amounts of filthy lucre in the process.

A key tenet of the series is that the more “mundies” (that’s mundane humans like you and me… well, me anyway) who think about a fable character, the stronger that character becomes. Books TV, songs, all feed their vitality. In the first volume of his eponymous irreverent series Jack was brought low by the publicity-shy Fables Police: banished from Hollywood and ordered to disappear, with only a suitcase full of cash to tide him over.

He was captured and escaped from a particularly horrific fate – metaphysical neutering by The Golden Bough, a clandestine organisation that had been “vanishing” Fables for centuries – and is now on the run from those selfsame forces (in the attractive shape of the Page Sisters, dedicated hunters of everything Fabulous and Uncanny) after instigating a mass-break-out of forgotten and abridged Fables…

This second volume (collecting issues #6-11 of the Vertigo comicbook) opens with ‘Jack Frost’ illustrated by Steve Leialoha, as the legendary blowhard links up with a few other escapees in snow-bound Wyoming, and “entertains” everyone with the story of how he once knocked-up Lumi, the Snow Queen, after which he then helpfully “borrowed” her role in the supernatural cosmology and almost destroyed the cycle of Seasons before the Queen’s sisters Summer Spring and Autumn brought him to book…

The sharp eyed might notice that although the two chapters smoothly follow one another the attendant reproduced covers indicate that the concluding part was actually #11, not #7. Yes. Correct. You’re not wrong. Chalk it up to the magical drama of deadlines and move on.

‘Viva Las Vegas’ illustrated by Tony Akins and Andrew Pepoy, opens in that legendary Sin City with Jack waking up hung over and married to a cutie who is also the billionaire heiress who will one day inherit much of that aforementioned modern Gomorrah. But things aren’t as great as they seem. For starters Jack has somehow been reunited with fellow escapee Gary, the engagingly peculiar but trouble-attracting Pathetic Fallacy. For another, nobody likes an obvious gigolo gold-digger and everybody is trying to kill him. Most importantly though, the disgustingly bloodthirsty Fable Lady Luck already secretly controls Vegas and doesn’t want someone like Jack around just when her lost magic horseshoe has finally, serendipitously returned to the city after being missing for decades…

Saucy, self-referential, darkly, mordantly funny, this series is a deliciously whimsical fairytale for adults concocted with much more broad, adult, cynical humour and sex than your average comicbook – so mothers and matrons be warned! This enchanting series is a wonderful view of how the world should be and every volume should be compulsory reading for jaded fantasists everywhere.

© 2007 Bill Willingham and DC Comics. All rights reserved.

Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 2

By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-168-8

Like clockwork the second volume collecting the latest creations of Los Bros Hernandez appeared and proved well worth the wait, once more leading with the cleanly classical visual sophistication of Jaime’s ‘Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34.

This enchanting super-heroine homage bookends the volume beginning with ‘Part Three: Daughters of Doom’ and concluding with the delightful ‘Part Four: Mothers of Mercy’ which finds time and space for poignancy and (rather surreal) family relationships amidst a joyous, vicarious avalanche of costumed mayhem of the type we loved as kids in the 1960s. Not since Scott McCloud’s delicious tribute ‘Destroy!’ has the poetry of gauntleted fisticuffs been so memorably celebrated…

The central portion features Gilberto who contributed two longer pieces this time: the challenging ‘Sad Girl’ wherein young and pneumatic Killer takes an unorthodox and oblique revenge reminiscent of the heady days of Palomar whilst the boldly experimental graphic mime ‘Hypnotwist’ follows a lost and vulnerable young woman on an astonishingly bizarre voyage of discovery…

As with Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 1 these tales form part of an unfolding work-in-progress, and I’m praying that just as with the original series thirty years ago, some unseen connections will reveal themselves to my hungry eyes in the months to come. And even if they don’t, these are still some of the best drawn and intriguing comics tales of the last few years.

A mature fan’s secret delight, don’t miss these books…

© 2009 Gilberto, Jaime and Mario Hernandez. This edition © 2009 Fantagraphics Books.  All Rights Reserved.

Love and Rockets: New Stories No. 1

By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-951-7

In the 1980s a qualitative revolution forever destroyed the clichéd, stereotypical ways different genres of comic strips were produced and marketed. Most prominent in destroying the comfy pigeonholes we’d built for ourselves were three guys from Oxnard, California; Jaime, Mario (occasionally) and Gilberto Hernandez.

Love and Rockets was an anthology comics magazine that featured the slick, intriguing, originally sci-fi tinted larks of punky young things Maggie and Hopey – las Locas – and the heart-warming, terrifying, gut-wrenching soap-opera fantasy of Palomar. The Hernandez Boys, gifted synthesists all, entranced us all with incredible stories that sampled a thousand influences conceptual and actual – everything from Archie Comics, kids TV, the exotica of American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism and masked wrestlers. There was also perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – or at least alternative music and punk.

The result was pictorial and narrative dynamite.

Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions but the slick and enticing visual forays by Jaime explored friendship and modern love whilst destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of Bright Young Things and Gilberto created the super-hyper-real landscape of Palomar: a playground of wit and passion created for the extended serial Heartbreak Soup. Here was a poor Latin-American village with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

Everything from life death, adultery, magic, serial killing and especially gossip could happen its meta-fictional environs, and did, as the artist mined his own post-punk influences in a deceptively effective primitivist art style incorporating the mythologies of comics, music, drugs, strong women, gangs, sex and family using a narrative format informed by everything from Magical Realism to Saturday morning cartoons.

Despite gaining huge critical acclaim but little financial success the brothers temporarily went their own ways but a few years ago creatively reunited to produce annual collections of new material. This initial volume of 112 pages finds Jaime once more pastiching female superheroes and the Mexican Masked Wrestler phenomenon in the captivating ‘Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34 Part One: The Search for Penny Century’ – an extended whimsical romp featuring Maggie and clashing dynasties of lady crime-fighters all trying to subdue an old friend crazed by her gifts and the pressures of modern motherhood. The second part ‘Penny is found’ closes the volume but the story is so big that it continues into the 2009 volume…

Brother Beto opted for a selection of shorter tales ranging from the quirky newspaper strip parody ‘The Funny Pages’, the graphic parable of ‘Papa’, whose Job-like faith and determination were singularly tested and ‘The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy’ – a broadly absurdist spoof of the Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis team, whose outer space exploits are as wacky as any of their 1950s DC comics outings.

‘Victory Dance’ is an enigmatic, obscurantist offering on one of life’s Big Questions, after which Mario returns to script ‘Chiro el Indio’, a barbed satire on Catholic/white treatment of native South Americans cunningly disguised as a cartoon sitcom for Gilberto to draw, whilst ‘Never say Never’ is another highly adult cartoon spoof from Beto alone starring a gambling kangaroo, which acts as palette-cleanser for the sheer graphic exuberance of ‘?’; a free-ranging, visual free-association trip.

With the aforementioned ‘Ti-Girls Adventures Number 34 Part Two: ‘Penny is found’

closing out this volume on a cliffhanger, it’s only fair to state that initial response to this new work was mixed and guarded when it first appeared. However with the hindsight of a second edition released and a third on the way it’s safe to assume that Los Bros still know exactly what they are doing and that the magic is unfolding as it should…

Stark, charming and irresistibly seductive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains – just as it predecessors have been – the forge of the cutting edge of graphic narrative.

© 2008 Gilberto, Jaime and Mario Hernandez. This edition © 2008 Fantagraphics Books.  All Rights Reserved.

The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D.

By Dash Shaw (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-307-1

Being an old dinosaur who cut his teeth on old-fashioned 1970s print technology, I’m constantly surprised when modern computer tech so remarkably emulates and enhances what I still consider to be “painted” art. I stare in wonder until I fool myself that I can actually see all those hard, straight-edged pixels on the page, and my head begins to hurt and my eyes to water…

None of which is particularly germane, but which does indicate just how entrancing is this lovely book. Dash Shaw is an extremely talented creator with a singular authorial voice and a huge repertoire of styles to call upon. Born in 1983, he is part of a “new wave” (please note no capital letters there) of multi-tasking cartoonists, animators and web-content creators whose interests and sensibilities have heralded a renaissance in graphic narrative.

Like so many fresh creators he began young with independently published small press comics before graduating to paid work, and his available books include Love Eats Brains, GoddessHead, Garden Head, Mother’s Mouth and the superb and haunting Bottomless Belly Button.

In 2009 the Independent Film Channel commissioned him to convert his short stories from the comic arts quarterly Mome, The Unclothed Man In the 35th Century A.D., into an imaginative and compelling animated series and this incredibly impressive hardback gathers not only those evocative, nightmarish and tenderly bizarre tales but also the storyboards, designs and scripts Shaw constructed to facilitate the transition from paper to screen.

Wrapped in a stylish printed dust jacket made from what appears to be an animation cel (celluloid), the stories include the eponymous Unclothed Man, ‘Look Forward, First Son of Terra Two’, ‘Galactic Funnels’, My Entire High School… Sinking into the Sea!, ‘Blind Date 1’, Making the Abyss, the captivatingly droll examination of comic and cartoon special effects ‘Cartooning Symbolia’ and others. For many however the revelatory insights of how the creative process unfolds will be the biggest draw of all…This is an achingly visual and surprisingly accessible yet intellectual bunch of gems that every dedicated fan of the medium simply must see, and every reader of challenging fiction will Have to read.

© 2009 Dash Shaw. This edition © 2009 Fantagraphics Books.  All Rights Reserved.


By Garth Ennis & Phil Winslade (Vertigo)
ISBN: 978-1-84023-327-3

Some stories are just a good, vicarious read and there’s no better description for this achingly funny, over the top eco-romp from the lord of outrageous shock comedy Garth Ennis. That it’s beautifully illustrated by master of the meticulous Phil Winslade is a tremendous plus of course…

London Zoo keeper Rosie Nolan went for a walk in the Highlands. As she was revelling in the wonders of nature something odd happened: she was gripped by an eerie emerald power and accidentally split Scotland and England apart…

At that moment ineffectual Jeff (our narrator) was cocking up his latest relationship and ecological psychopath Mudhawk was slaughtering some more people who didn’t share his passion for animal rights, but someone who did notice Rosie’s little gaffe was paranoid narcisscist  Harry Hooks, a CIA spook who had been hunting for telekinetic people to turn into US weapons for decades. He immediately headed for England where a concatenation of circumstances brought Jeff, Mudhawk – and his bellicose ex Samantha Flint – to Rosie’s doorstep just as the Yank arrived…

Mad as a bag of badgers, Hooks tried to abduct Rosie, leading to the deaths of five American agents, and when the local beat copper arrived Hooks shot him. This rash act brought cheerful old Desk Constable George Dixon into the mix. Dixon was the kind of rozzer who always got his man – and then assiduously disposed of the body before anybody could register a complaint. An old fashioned sort, he didn’t much like cop-killers, so with the sadistic Bovver Bruvvers in tow Dixon went after the kill-crazy Hooks, incidentally racking up a body-count of his own that a middle-eastern dictator would be proud of…

In a voyage that traverses the entire globe Rosie’s powers expand exponentially and as the frantic chases of all the authority figures rapidly converge on her the attendant carnage escalates. With her companions in tow she uncovers the incredible secret of her gift in a gloriously trenchant and darkly sardonic satire on society, like a gore-splattered “Carry-On” film with no limits and not even a modicum of good taste.

Fast, furious, funny and wickedly whimsical, this is classic over-the-top Ennis fare, which was purportedly postponed during its conversion from eight issue miniseries to trade paperback compilation because the terrorist themes were deemed too raw after the September 11th attacks. As one of the most impressive scenes here concerns crashing an airliner, I think I can see their point. Nevertheless, as the series premiered six years before the towers fell, and it’s been a long while since, perhaps the time is right to revisit this incredible fantasy tale for consenting, contrary adults…

© 1995, 1996, 2002 Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade. All Rights Reserved.

The Troublemakers

By Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-56097-922-7

There’s fiction, there’s Meta-fiction and then there is Gilbert Hernandez. In addition to being part of the graphic and literary revolution that is Love and Rockets (where his incredibly insightful tales of Palomar and the later stories of those characters collected in Luba gained such critical acclaim) he has produced stand-alone tales such as Sloth, Grip, Birdland and Girl Crazy, all marked by his bold, instinctive, compellingly simplified artwork and a mature, sensitive adoption of the literary techniques of Magical Realist writers such as Carlos Fuentes and Gabriel García Márquez: techniques which he has added to and made his own.

Now he has acknowledged such influences as Roger Corman, John Cassavetes, Elmore Leonard and Jim Thompson as he continues to break new ground and reprocess the cultural influences that shaped all us baby-boomers. In Luba we also glimpsed the troubled life of her half-sister Rosalba “Fritz” Martinez: a brilliant, troubled woman, lisping psychotherapist, sex-worker, belly-dancer and “B-movie” starlet of such faux screen gems as Three Mystic Eyes, Blood is the Drug and Love From the Shadows. Fritzi has unfeasibly large breasts.

In 2007 Hernandez “adapted” one of those trashy movies as the graphic novel Chance in Hell – although Fritzi only had a bit part in it – but here he places her fully at centre stage in an incredible crime-caper of cross and double-cross that works astoundingly well as a gritty, grimy hard-boiled pulp fiction thriller.

Generation X waster Wes has a dream of singing in his own rock club. His dirt-bag drug peddler pal Dewey Booth has $200 grand and isn’t stupid enough to share it. Nala was a stage magician before she took to hooking and she knows her incredible body won’t last forever.

They’re all doing a cautious dance with Dewey’s cash as the prize when hard-as-nails grifter Vincene shows up and the plot starts to boil over. Wes knows Vincene from long ago: she once kidnapped Nala and stole her car and stage act and Dewey isn’t nearly as dumb as everybody thinks he is…

This explosive mix won’t end well and the big question is: after all the bodies and collateral damage is sorted out who’s going to get the dough and who’s going to get bodybags?

Raw, gripping and thoroughly engaging, this perfect pastiche of the genre still has Hernandez’s signature brash sexuality, clever dialogue and sly elements of rock and roll surrealism to elevate it above the vast body of such fiction, and straight crime fans will enjoy this as much as any Palomar devotee. Every adult who loves the Big Thrill should snap this up immediately…

© 2009 Gilbert Hernandez. All rights reserved.

For a Few Troubles More – A Crisis Graphic Novel

By Garth Ennis & John McCrea, with Wendy Simpson (Fleetway)
ISBN: 0-85386-208-8

After the moving odyssey of Tom Boyd in Troubled Souls and chilling sardonic disillusionment of True Faith, the third Crisis epic from Garth Ennis again broke entirely new ground with a mini-masterpiece of eternal fraternal comradeship and raucous, bawdy profanity that touched all the classic keystones of masculine comedy: women, booze, toilet humour and the trouble your best mates get you into …

For a Few Troubles More shows another, more joyous side of Belfast, and features the antics of Dougie and Ivor, two peripheral characters and drinking buddies from the story of Boyd, who stole centre-stage and ran off giggling with it (think “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Schmucks”…)

Dougie Patterson is getting married. His fiancé’s extremely imposing father insists on it. He doesn’t actually like Dougie but no grandchild of his is going to be born out of wedlock. It’s not so bad, really. The wayward lad loves Valerie, and his fearsome father-in-law-to-be is finding him both a job and somewhere to live. All Dougie has to do is learn to think before he opens his mouth and lose the bad influences in his useless life.

Beat mate Ivor Thompson is the fleshily overabundant epitome of a bad influence. Crafty, stupid, and a fabulist far too fond of the “Brilliant Idea”, this failed terrorist (who shot himself in the foot on his first mission) is fresh out of prison and looking to make a little cash when his uncle Shuggie lets him in on a family secret: the elder Thompson runs the most diabolical Poteen still in the city. (Pronounced “Puh-Cheen,” an illicit, illegal and unwise homemade spirit made from things better left unsaid, inexplicably beloved by Sons of Erin everywhere. I tried some in 1975 and to this day my skull pounds and my vision blurs whenever I move my head too quickly).

With the wedding day looming and no-one better available, Dougie unwisely lets Ivor be his Best Man, stupidly forgetting his old pal’s passion for practical jokes, and the fact that’s he’s cursed by all the gods of good taste there have ever been.

Ivor’s a survivor. Nothing gets him down for long: not Shuggie’s sudden death, a gang of criminals who want the vast quantity of Poteen they were promised or an imminent beating by the biggest bully in Belfast. In fact it takes the return of his uncle as an entirely different kind of spirit to give him even a moment’s pause, and he’s determined that Dougie’s honeymoon will be one he’ll never forget…

This blend of viperish one-liners and classic slapstick shows all Ennis’s later themes in full display: friendship, male bonding, studied suspicion and mandatory disrespect of any authority that thinks itself sacrosanct. It is a paean of praise for the little guy, starring two of the most ordinary heroes ever seen.

Clearly the lads struck a chord, as they have periodically returned as the “stars” of the occasional series Dicks, but this first tightly disciplined slice of chaos is still, for me at least, their greatest moment – particularly because of the superbly evocative colour art of John McCrea and Wendy Simpson.

A riotous, uproarious tawdry delight for grown-ups with a sense of vulgar absurdity, these are not troubles you can do without.
© 1990 Fleetway Publications. All Rights Reserved.

True Faith – A Crisis Graphic Novel

By Garth Ennis & Warren Pleece (Fleetway)
ISBN: 978-1-85386-201-0

Following on from a startling debut with Troubled Souls the barely weaned Garth Ennis first hit the controversy circuit with this brilliantly dark and nihilistic exploration of the corrupting idiocy of religion that also catapulted him to the forefront of “must read” comics writers.

Nigel Gibson is a student with a problem. He really fancies Angela Hyman, but she’s a devout Christian, and the only way he’s getting anywhere near her knickers is by hanging out with her ghastly Scripture Union pals. It doesn’t help his hormone-fuelled mood that the teachers are all bullying dicks, his mates are actually brain-dead thugs and that television lobotomized his family years ago.

Terence Adair however was a man with everything: loving wife and baby on the way; successful plumbing business, and the comfort and security of the Lord’s love to keep them all. But when his wife and child both die in the delivery room his world comes apart and he determines to kill the one responsible: God.

With outrageous, magical, cynical wit Ennis engineers the meeting of the horny, disaffected youth and the man of broken faith, and the lad is sucked into Adair’s world of insanity, horror and rage as God’s houses are systematically torched, and his priests shot. Thatcher’s government reels, the SAS are called in and then things get really strange and out of hand…

The manic humour and dialogue is amazingly polished for a wee lad of 19, and Ennis’ deft skill at switching from situations of utter ridiculousness to Byzantine tragedy and stomach-churning horror is a delight. Moreover, coupled with the uniquely enticing, understated art of Warren Pleece this tale becomes an unforgettable experience that only cowardice stopped from becoming a byword for comics creativity.

Please allow me to elucidate: this inexorably captivating yarn for grown-ups was originally serialized in the ground-breaking “comic with a conscience” Crisis (#29-38, October 1989-February 1990) to great acclaim, and was swiftly collected into a graphic novel upon completion. Within days it became the victim of a concerted and organized Christian hate-campaign, and withdrawn – apparently by order of the publisher: that notable ne’er-do-well and chocolate fireguard Robert Maxwell.

Most copies of the original publication were destroyed (as an occasional employee at the time I felt duty-bound to keep my comp-copy in lieu of a pension) but thankfully Vertigo released an edition in 1997, which, if you’re not prone to religious intolerance or offence you should be able to track down fairly easily.

Go on: you know you want to…
© 1990 Fleetway Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Troubled Souls – A Crisis Graphic Novel

By Garth Ennis & John McCrea (Fleetway)
ISBN: 0-85386-174-X

Aged 19, Garth Ennis dropped out of college to become a writer in 1989, and certainly kicked off with an enviable bang by creating a mini-masterpiece in the thoughtful and engaging Troubled Souls: a multi-layered and wonderfully even-handed exploration of coming-of-age in Belfast during the undeclared civil war euphemistically called “the Troubles.”

Crisis (63 issues from 1988 to1991) was an experiment in socially edgy adult comics launched by Fleetway Publications during the Dog Days of Thatcher’s regime, and it paved the way for many a starry career in its day. After science fiction series New Statesmen and Third World War concluded the magazine became more experimental, reflecting a more contemporary worldview, and new strip Troubled Souls quickly became an unmissable fortnightly treat.

Tom Boyd is a young Protestant man in Belfast at the end of the 1980s. The constant sectarian bloodshed and British occupation have largely left him untouched, except for the economic cataclysm that has made Northern Ireland a place of no jobs and no hope for the young. He lives with his parents and yearns for something better; girlfriend, career prospects, hope.

At least he’s got enough dole money for bevies with his mates…

One notable night in the pub his friend set him up with a blind date, and that’s fine, but when a British Army patrol comes in on a search, a total stranger surreptitiously dumps a gun in his lap and surrenders himself. Shocked and startled, Tom can’t understand why he doesn’t shop the gunman, but his bewilderment turns to rage when he sees what the Squaddies do to the suspect…

Later Catholic terrorist Damien McWilliams reclaims his gun, and insinuates himself into Tom’s life, challenging his cosy preconceptions, terrorising and blackmailing the lad into participating in a bombing. Through it all Tom is the helpless pawn of powerful, corrupt and hate-filled forces, but still finds time for first love, real life and a true friend, but the centuries of hate that have plagued the country can’t be denied or thwarted and a wholly unique and personal tragedy is going to occur whatever he does or doesn’t do…

Poignant, engaging, genial, funny and scary, this richly moving human drama, set on a stage everybody only thought they knew, is still one of the best stories Ennis has ever written, and fellow neophyte John McCrea has seldom produced such varied, evocative, sensitive art since. Because of the subject matter I can understand why it hasn’t been republished, but with twenty years distance and original copies fetching $50 or more isn’t it about time somebody thought about a new edition? Perhaps combined with its more broadly comedic sequel For a Few Troubles More (coming soon to a review blog near you…)?
© 1990 Fleetway Publications. All Rights Reserved.

Pim & Francie: the Golden Bear Days (Artifacts and Bone Fragments)

By Al Columbia (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 9781-60699-304-0

Al Columbia is an incredibly innovative creator who has been pushing the boundaries of what we call narrative art since his earliest days in the industry, and one who has always seemed to generate the wrong kind of “press”. From the days when he assisted and then succeeded Bill Sienkiewicz on Alan Moore’s experimental and unfinished Big Numbers, through Doghead, From Beyonde and the astonishing The Biologic Show Columbia has sought out new ways to tell stories and never shied away from potentially controversial scenes, imagery and even styles of working; equally conversant with highly observed photorealism and the eccentric and economical symbolism of animated film. He has rather unfairly gained a reputation for not finishing what he’s started…

His later works, especially in this oddly disturbing hardback collection, are clearly based on the early cinematic imagery currently in vogue with the West Coast art movement known alternatively as Lowbrow or Pop Surrealism, but although the content may appear similar the intent is radically different. The line and design similarities to the landmark Fleischer Brothers cartoons here create a subtle sense of trusted familiarity that the antics and situations expressly and terrifyingly contradict and overwhelm.

Pim and Francie are pixy-ish waifs resident in a 1920s halcyon neverland, and first appeared in the chilling short story ‘Tar Frogs’ (originally published in Britain’s ‘90’s lifestyle driven Deadline magazine and then retooled for The Biologic Show #0 in 1994). They resurfaced in the still uncompleted Peloria Part One (The Biologic Show #1 in 1995) and most recently in Mome #9 (Fall 2007).

In a collection that appears more sketchbook than story, and which calls itself a “broken jigsaw puzzle”, grisly, grotesque images and characters cavort and proceed through a familiar wonderland of fairytale Americana, but look more closely and you can see a story unfolding: a tale of two rascals and perils beyond imagining…

Columbia’s nightmarish, recondite scenario hints at a deeper profundity but his beautiful, clear, dark drawings are open, simple and fiendishly accessible to even the youngest reader so beware who you expose to these amazing astonishing adventures. Appetising, intriguing and addictively profane, this is a delightful excursion to a very wrong place.

See you there…
© 2009 Al Columbia. All Rights Reserved.