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

Love The Monsters

Posted on October 10, 2001

In her haste to shrug off a recent trauma, a capable young woman refuses the struggle to reconcile her ideals with actual events, fails to acknowledge her vulnerability, and chooses to repress rather than to confront the monsters within.

Visually resembling yet another hack-like entry for the '24 Hour Comic' waster-log, this publication contains an artwork that smacks of disinterest and that has 'chore' scrawled with blunt felt-tip marker across every A4 page of actual-size drawings. With talking heads to the fore, this art offers nothing by way of sequential inventiveness, and though obviously churned out by a capable source, provides glimpses of a pleasing quality only when the influence of Carol Swain is in evidence. Effortless and disposable, really.

The story itself, however, proves a modestly ambitious piece of writing. Charged with undertone of tense cathartic urgency, and lacking the abundance of exclamation marks always associated with our for boys comics medium, this mostly understated parable owes more to the punch of the prose short story form than to the vacuous entertainment of powerful types either in or out of costume. It's a read that appeals to one's empathy, and though hampered somewhat towards the end by its unrelenting focus on specific elements of the story (rather than on a more general, a more universal emotional source with which we can all relate), it nonetheless succeeds in both engaging and affecting the/this reader.

Not for the average comics affectation fan, then. But for those who prefer Atom Egoyan to Joel Schumacher, Leonie O'Moore's Love The Monsters delivers a substance over style drama that is flawed but worthy.

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