A Review Asks Only Whether One Can Live With It Or Die Of It

I've been reviewing small press publications on www.bugpowder.com for a few years now. Totemic small presser Andy Luke recruited me; he'd been impressed with my essay, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll, and was convinced that I could restore some cheer to the reviews section.

Ostensibly a scoff-mixture, Closing Shots From A Grassy Knoll discusses the pathogenic presence in UK small press of comics creators eager to produce work sterilized by an ambition to be adaptable to the strictures of an intrusive company bent on 'product development', and who derive a vanity-buzz of satisfaction from tucking themselves into deadlines and knocked-off scripts. "This budding hack is fuelled by little more than the desperation for a sense of celebrity," I wrote, "and must be destroyed."

My muscular reviewing-style grated with small press enthusiasts' indulgence in self-satisfied congeniality and writer/artist shape-throwing, but I refused to conveniently dismiss creators with throwaway compliments, employing instead a reviewing discipline based on four simple tenets: 1, perspective is to be achieved; 2, the standards by which one is judging the work are to be made clear; 3, credit is to be given where it is due; and 4, one should not be such a fucking misanthrope, you above-being-human narcissist.

Regularly achieving three of the four principles with my aesthetic evaluations, and quickly developing an obsessive-compulsive urgency for production of symmetrically paragraphed reviews, the meaningless absurdity of opinionative writing soon revealed itself to me. I was not deterred.

John Robbins

The Anthology Project #1

Posted on October 12, 2003

A flimsy but mostly worthwhile attempt to capture a sophistication worthy of adult attention, 'The Anthology Project' offers a mix of solidly crafted strips and prose with off-beat appeal, but little resonance.

'Mr Smith' by Bonney and McColm, and 'The Dream Of Lazarus' by McColm, provides some effective sequential moments and a 'voice' which engages my adult ear. The former concerns a Green Mile-like incarceration; the latter a character-motivated study of an abyss-gazing ex-cop, past his prime. Equally beyond his 'best before date' is the elderly protagonist of Bonney's short story 'Tomorrow'- an uneventful piece with a first person narrative which, for the duration of the read, successfully made this reader experience what it is to exist without sense of anticipation. 'Nemesis' and 'The Experiment', again by Bonney, are photo-aided presentations of mercifully brief texts that are laboriously earnest and wannabe-worthy. And 'To End All Wars' by Bonney, with art by Walker, is a predictable, humdrum tale of a war casualty 'recovering' in hospital-with-a-twist.

Technically sound throughout, with thematically symbiotic contents, The Anthology Project may lack the complexity and subtlety of subtext to satisfy a mature readership, but certainly offers enough to seduce the average small press enthusiast.

36 A5 pages, £1 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk