9.30.09 Review

Scrublands (Fantagraphics): Although this book is accurately dubbed as the American debut of the collected works of South African cartoonist Joe Daly, his diverse stylings did already bring us the feature length stories found in The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book, which I seem to have missed. In any case, Scrublands clocks in at 128 pages, includes some color work, and is very reasonably priced at $16.95 considering the high doses of entertainment it contains. On top of that, Fantagraphics has a sale going at the moment, where you can pick up the book for a mere $11.30. Getting into the content, Kobosh and Steve in Art Lover ends with the classic line “I love fucking art,” and that razor sharp ironic edge seems to run throughout the collected works. Damaged Goods would turn old fashioned Sunday newspaper strips on their head and cause all kinds of ruckus. The book moves quickly into the micro-fauna on Bruce Springsteen’s “grease-monkey poetry” head, which is a one pager with a slow burn and nice reveal at the end. Trawling the Streets of Cape Town has a real life manic energy to it, and strikes me as very Joe Matt–ish aesthetically, ending with the line “Yes! Yes! Drugs and comics! YES! YES!” The celebrity infusion doesn’t stop with Springsteen, Chuck Norris, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Dennis Hopper all get their nods as the protagonist touches on everyday topics and even moves into attempting to score some "righteous dagga.” Though not intended, Kobosh and Steve in the Supermarket is really the centerpiece of the book for me. I thought it was the funniest and bore the most resemblance to something that Robert Crumb would attempt. It’s a story seemingly about nothing, but is a funny little existential play, wherein the protagonist makes big proclamations such as rejecting religion to “face real life directly, to face the full beauty, horror, and mystery of it all.” Along the way, the humor is played genuinely straight-laced with zingers like needing to “get some of that good beta carotene shit inside of me.” There’s the contemporary sad reality of Aqua Boy, and the cinematic short film vibe of Prebaby, which was designed to be the actual centerpieces of the book, taking up more than half of the page count. I liked the “spark of life” and miniature soldiers sequence tremendously. Kobosh and Steve in My Beach Community has some fine line detail and vibrant colors that appear slightly Chris Ware–ish in their most miniature and colored state. Licentious lines like “sun ripened teenage girls” complete the package, and I swear Kobosh looks like a Black Lantern in that one(!) The book ends with the titular post-apocalyptic vibe of Scrublands. It’s clear that Daly is a major talent, extremely versatile in his range, able to project the strengths of autobio, parody, or even cinematic qualities. I’m excitedly looking forward to more of his work. And hey, “thanks for hallucinating me into existence!” Grade A.


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