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 Ex Revenge Project

Posted on December 12, 2004

Cinema Sewer creator Robin Bougie mines the bilious online-subculture of jilted males bent on the humiliation of ex-partners by means of pushing once-private knowledge into the public domain, both through written description and photographic evidence. With names withheld and pornographic snaps converted to pen & ink drawings, Bougie's oblique reproduction of the pathogenic effect of break-ups is agreeably sanitised and succeeds in absolving the reader of indirect involvement in the abuse - that is, beyond the reader-as-consumer responsibility for maintaining this residual market.

The Ex Revenge Project offers eighteen illustrations accompanied by inherently depraved accounts of sexual activities as detailed by an assortment of vengeful males intent on the promotion of their own sexual proclivity through the profound embarrassment of ex-girlfriends. There's no Heathcliff or Mr Darcy here; expect no semblance of punishment as prompted by moral outrage at transgressed values. No, here civilised society takes a backseat with Vaughan from Ballard's Crash, and Bougie doesn't need to tilt the rear-view mirror much to allow us an eyeful of sexual displacement, psychological disinhibition and a dismantling of repression.

Repulsive and compelling, and with well-directed restraint, The Ex Revenge Project captures confused emotion pervaded by a sexuality gone sour. You'll mourn the loss of our biologic 'mating season' regulation; you'll wince at the emergence of a taboo-breaking, confessional society; and you'll embrace asexuality with a gnawing despair. Look away, S. Clay Wilson - this is dynamite! In the pages of The Ex Revenge Project, man will delight you not, no, nor women neither…nor women neither.

20 A5-ish pages, $3 - check availability at www.cinemasewer.com