Third Time's A Charm
Three #3 (Self-Published by Rob Kirby): Rob Kirby helms another one of his anthology-style books, this one a recipient of the Prism Comics Queer Press Grant. My only slight quibble, even though you can eventually sort it all out, is that this doesn’t have a traditional TOC for the reader to instantly be able to discern who did which piece. That aside, it certainly has the professional polish of the Rob Kirby joints I’ve sampled to date. The production quality is fantastic, down to the paper, the color, and the general layout. The book contains several short spot pieces, but is really anchored by a triumvirate of longer stories. The first extended piece by Ed Luce is a little obtuse for my taste (in fact, I can’t easily recall now what the thrust of the plot is), but I do like the figure work. There’s a brief interlude with something I always enjoy - a good Matt Runkle yarn. So, I was happy to see “The Tennessean Gem” from him (though it’s later listed as “The Tennessee Gem”) about Dolly Parton as mommy-goddess. It’s a fun blast of entertainment and his style always makes you consider fairly mundane things in new light. “Oh No!” is really the second anchor in the set, a jam comic where something bad occurs every 3 panels, masterminded by Jennifer Camper. With 6 or 7 artists contributing, the throughline is sometimes a little hard to understand, producing a choppy edit effect where things may not be directly connected, but it’s a fun experiment for the most part. Rob Kirby, Howard Cruse, Diane DiMass (and later Ellen Forney) were the brightest spots for me, around the time the exorcist shows up to deal with donkey babies in hell. From there, it speeds toward a fourth wall breaking “is this strip really working?” rant that culminates with absolutely killing the most famous ol’ Charlie Brown gag. The strips clown on Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and Peppermint Patty in what can only be described as Freudian proportions. The third piece in the core set I mentioned is from Carrie McNinch, telling the story of her youthful sentencing to a Christian school after getting into trouble in LA (well, the San Fernando Valley). It’s got this great vibrant DIY art, and hones in on the foibles of entry level drug culture, while dodging the Hillside Strangler, and ditching school in the process. Being from the SF Bay Area, anything that drops the assassinations of George Moscone and Harvey Milk into the mix scores instant points with me. What McNinch does so well is capture this moment in everyone's life that’s all about identity. Trying to find yourself at this age through friends, music, clothes, and everything else is hard enough, throw on top of that the self-discovery that you’re probably gay, and the results are a heartfelt feature length piece lovingly rendered and entertaining in the process. There are a couple of very minor glitches in this project, but overall Rob Kirby is slowly building himself an empire of thought-provoking, contemporary culture pieces masquerading as fun indie comics. Grade A-.