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

More Than We Seem #6

Posted on August 15, 2002

A comic with a definite swagger, this; and fine wordsmithery, and stylish illustration, and a production and attitude that demand to be taken seriously. It's frustrating then the fact that it provides impenetrable work that casts the casual reader in role of detached gate-crasher, is not remotely satisfying, and on this evidence, seems to lack any notion of the importance of focusing theme. For all its impressive craft and ambition, ultimately issue six simply has nothing to say.

The publication opens and closes with text-heavy pieces: the first a series of plodding descriptive passage; the last a plodding dialogue - and both back-dropped with superfluous collage of images. Nicely written, nicely designed, but no less a kind of onanism.
The main presentation, a Trojan strip, is less of a slog however; but with occasional disorientating panel layouts, with the utilisation of two art styles, with an inventive but disruptive balloon sequencing, and with the cold, mechanical presence of computer lettering, it provides twitchy, uncomfortable read that leaves one slightly irritated.

Though commendable to create work with a mature audience in mind, epilepsy sufferers beware: MTWS attempts to muster complexity through use of prelude, interlude, sub-plot, prologue, epilogue, purpleslog - at the expense of a stretch of actual story to involve both the casual and devoted reader alike. And of course, the irony is that there are obvious talents gathered here. But for the moment however - with this my first glimpse - More Than We Seem is less than the sum of its parts. The pieces are in places.

US size, 36 pages, £1.95 - available from www.smallzone.co.uk