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

Streets Of Dublin

Posted on October 15, 2005

In Dublin City creator Gerry Hunt pastiches hip Irish film and TV drama to realise the familiar narrative arc of Streets Of Dublin, an attractive graphic novel deliciously designed and coloured by Toenail Clippings co-founder BrenB. Reading like an abridged adaptation of a misjudged screen-thriller that uncovers the grubby underbelly of the Capital's inner-city crime scene, it's not without its own ersatz charm, even allowing for the failure of its predominantly poker-faced parody to fully register.

When a wannabe urban-cowboy, the teenage Johnny, befriends gung-ho vigilante and part-time scrap-merchant Bernard (the father of Garda sergeant PJ), little do they realise that their lives are to further overlap under more trying circumstances. In his efforts to pay money owed a Triad splinter group, Johnny's older brother attempts to rob a pub, but in the process scuppers PJ's undercover infiltration of a gang of heroin traffickers. Inevitably things go from bad to worse, and only Johnny and Bernard can save the day.

Jammed with junkie scumbags, hard-nippled slappers and gun-wielding 'chinks', the heightened reality of Streets Of Dublin of course lacks the organic quality of In Dublin City, but retains the permeation of Irishness and the exquisitely rendered city buildings. With jarring figures replaced by old-style draughtsmanship of the Jim Baikie ilk, artwork is impressive; and with dubious transitions, plot-convenient coincidences and shambolic finale, the script perfectly employs the tropes specific to that hip Irish film coming soon to no cinema near you, sans parody.

60 A4 pages, colour interior, square-bound, €9.95 – available from www.dublincomics.com