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

Life And Adventures Of Fleshwound Minor #1

Posted on October 9, 2001

Though uncluttered, a poorly designed cover presents two font styles at odds with the other and manages to lend the title logo insignificant role. This lack of focus continues throughout the publication as a half-baked pseudo-Victorian pretence is not consistently maintained, leaving one slightly disorientated and vaguely irritated. However, these criticisms are reduced to mere quibble when considering the effort and skill devoted to the production of this enjoyably diverting magazine.

Though pockets of gleeful editorial writings bookend this publication, two pieces account for the bulk of material on offer: 'Welcome to Fleshwound's Manor', a ten page comic strip; and the eight page presentation of the opening chapter of 'Tales of the Forever Pilot', a text story "cunningly presented as a tome from the library of Fleshwound's Manor".
A little indulgent space-wise, with it's average of four panels per A4 page, the strip at least manages a pacing that sets the scene and casually establishes both protagonist and antagonist. Childhood alienation and the suffocation and dysfunction of family life for Fleshwound Minor are well captured, and oppressive mood is released through the effective scrawlings of an impatient art style. A touch gag-led perhaps, 'Welcome to Flesh...' (ahem) is insubstantial but spirited.
'Tales of the Forever Pilot' is derivative pulp-ish stuff, but so expertly realised that one's resistance is swept away by brisk pace and seductive prose. With playful tone that yet manages moments of suspense and intrigue, it proves a thoroughly entertaining read, faultlessly crafted. However, the abrupt ending of this chapter offers neither semblance of closure nor cliff-hanger, and leaves one with sudden dissatisfaction and sense of betrayal. Still a damn fine shot of cheesy popcorn to the vein, though!

Life and Adventures of Fleshwound Minor #1 has its faults, but strives to establish mannered identity with infectious exuberance, and in doing so provides sound escapism rooted in Poe-like atmospherics. So sure fuck it, why not sample the ambience? Just £1 entry at the door of 'The Trouser Press' - check first for available seating with

A4, £1 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk