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

Tales Of The Sidewalk #2

Posted on January 13, 2007

This is mental. Here, creator Jon Williams openly suffers from post-traumatic stress as a consequence of the reception to Sidewalk #1, and is startled into a panic of compulsive self-indulgence which manifests in this book-length whim, a devotion to a post-mortem of that debut issue. There is a half-hearted struggle to develop characters and situations introduced in #1, but ultimately, Williams' hellish reality anchored to our own proves a high concept in dire need of a plot. Consequently, soul-selling demon reality-journalist 'D' and his sidekick critic-construct, Jerome, are utilised merely as mouthpieces for their creator's comic-related angst.

That this post-premiere issue wreckage proves curiously mesmerising is not to condone its lack of writing craft. (See the review of Sidewalk #1.) But Williams' scratchy, fluid cartooning speaks of innate talent, and one can't help but be disarmed by the ambition of a creator with a vision currently above their ability, whose enthusiasm fails to will into existence a semblance of writing know-how or guile. It's ragged stuff, perilously close to eccentric folly, but with an endearing mixed-air of fatalism and resilience, this issue leaves me intrigued and alert to signs of Jon Williams defiantly crawling from the wreckage.

US size, 24 glossy pages - available from www.createtodestroy.com