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 Implausibility of Reason #4

Posted on September 21, 2001

'To look is to invent' some writer-type once wrote. What the fuck was meant I haven't the foggiest, but with Implausibility I expect author Marcel Angel has a confused inkling, and is determined to keep on looking and keep on inventing no matter the probable legal strictures. Really, this publication should come with advisory label - 'strictly for parents only'- because while the subject matter continues to be bent on shocking, it is only through an audience of parents that this publication can succeed in achieving this goal. Teens on the other hand would lap this stuff up and just snigger it off.

Therein lies the crux of the problem for TIOR: it is caught between audiences. While the quick-fix per paragraph prose of the opening three issues panders to a juvenile audience with low attention spans, this latest instalment offers a pacing that is less frantic and that allows the reader to catch breath and be lulled into a false sense of security before being bashed over the brain with another sudden atrocity. Though the story benefits from this, and the writer's developing craft is in evidence with assured prose and glimpses of a confident swagger emerging, the subject matter remains shackled to bike-shed readings and whispered giggles at the back of class.

The narrative this time teases readers rather than constantly pander to their perceived thirst for those situations of sexual perversion and anal violence. That's not to say that Angel does not deliver; he merely delivers when the context of the story allows for the greatest impact of delivery. Put simply: the structure lacking in previous instalments surfaces here, eliminates the montage-of-incidents effect in favour of a slightly more composed story-telling, but ultimately is not always repulsive enough for teens and not always engaging enough for adults.

With four issues and six kittens in the bag, writer Marcel Angel must seek answers in order to progress: for what purpose is he looking; and for what audience is he inventing. The search for reason must continue; and meanwhile, punters could do a lot worse than to finance the search.

A4 leaflet – check availability at http://andyluke.livejournal.com