3.20.2012

Culinary Apocalypse OR The Best Book I Bought @ WonderCon '12

Menu (Ashcan Press): Hey, it’s another shady camera phone pic, this time for the "West Coast Convention Edition" of Menu. This book sees various tales featuring Paul and his dog Trafton roaming the wastelands of the gastropocalypse. Writers Patrick Kindlon and Matthew Rosenberg have created a very chilling and compelling end of the world scenario, introducing us to a society with no food and a population that simply can’t sustain itself. Witness the total breakdown of society, and social mores such as, say… oh, wait for it… cannibalism. This edition opens strong with a Tom Scioli cover and jumps right into the first short featuring art by Matthew Wiegle. It’s hyper-violent, with suitably garish coloring, in an aesthetic style that strikes me as a delicious blend of Josh Simmons and Gary Panter. The second piece is “Aggressive Salesmanship” with art from Jason Copland. It’s a brutally direct campfire conversation about what it means to survive, and what happens to human relationships when the end comes. The stark black and white washes, and the angular shapes that contain them, match the harsh tone of the story well. Tom Scioli and his trademark Kirby style return for the third piece entitled “What’s That In Dog Years?” It certainly feels like it’s meant to function as the feature, and it’s definitely my favorite of the lot, though the first entry is a close second. This piece boasts some really funny dialogue as two estranged brothers face off during a uhh... cookout, of sorts. The fire creates a nice Kirby “crackle” effect in the background as the two figures fight in the foreground. It culminated with a magnificent two-page spread that really pops, looking like it’s jumping out at you right from Kirby’s Fourth World at DC. The fourth piece was a little flat artistically for me, and relied a little too much on exposition to propel the plot forward. Lastly, there’s a one-page “day in the life” type piece featuring Trafton that wrings out the fun irony. Overall, this was a great mini-anthology, building out an expansive world with two familiar throughline characters loosely connecting all the pieces. There were definitely more winners than losers here, somehow overcoming the most common pitfall of many anthologies, and that’s maintaining a high level of consistency. I’ll nitpick a little and say that I think the book would do better with a catchier, more precise title, but this was probably the best new work I picked up at WonderCon 2012. Hopefully that doesn’t sound like a backhanded compliment and is a reflection of the strength of the title, not my slightly passive reaction to the con itself. Grade A-.

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