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

In Dublin City

Posted on May 4, 2003

Another title with Atomic Diner imprint, and, as advance publicity optimistically suggests, just the second in a courageous line of Irish comics packaged with mainstream ambition. Publisher Rob Curley is fast becoming the Dez Skinn of Ireland's nascent comics industry! And, despite his ambition, obviously recognises that 'industry' more often than not contains dark, satanic mills in which the souls of men are ground to valueless dust - all proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Simon Community. (A charity for the homeless.)

In Dublin City, by Gerry Hunt, is an incantation to and of this fair city, but not so much penned by a James Joyce as by a Ronnie Drew! It bustles with common muckers and oozes a seductive salta-de-eart exuberance that demands affection, but that fails to engage as a work of sequential art. Centred around a card game destined for urban folkloric status, a crowded proximity of peripheral characters, Dublin city itself and a ballad-like narrative combine to allow the reader to witness the magical transition from the everyday to legend. It is a chemistry that almost overwhelms the reader with urgent appreciation.
In Dublin City is flawed, though. A tour of exquisitely detailed city buildings is obstructed by jarring figure drawings inconsistent in both style and quality; lettering is cramped in squared word balloons that at times are poorly placed; and the often dissociative narrative fails to focus the montage effect.

Not wholly satisfactory as a comics work then, In Dublin City occupies that space where the fusion of words and images make something related to sequential art. But believe me, a sense of guilt is unavoidable if read with failing stamina, because there is much to admire here. Eisner gave us 'A Contract With God'; Hunt offers 'A Contract With Sod'. It's a charmer; and just that little bit sozzled, perhaps.

36 A4 glossy pages, €3 - available from: Atomic Diner, 51 Tyrconnell Park, Inchicore, Dublin 8, Eire. Email robatomicdiner@eircom.net