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

Hope For The Future #5

Posted on October 10, 2003

One for a young Deadline kind of audience, this. Preceding the beginning of the story proper, seven pages of visually pleasing but indulgent 'character development' (disguised as youthful, inane, quip-fuelled banter) redundantly opens proceedings. Ironically, page 8 offers set-up enough, page 9 the story trigger, and only then do momentum and anticipation build as three Spaced-like friends investigate a Satanic cult and make a startling discovery before the tale lamely fizzles out. The cartooning of writer/penciller Simon Perrins and inker Andrew Livesey is Ilya-like lovely, boasting a flawless sequential storytelling; and suitable computer lettering is competently applied to complete the visual polish. With a half-hearted 'director's commentary' thrown in, it's all likeable, vacant hokum. (That needs grabbing by the shoulders and thorough shaking!)

36 A5 pages, £1.50 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk