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

Your Round: Tequila

Posted on June 25, 2007

Four good-humoured stories about drinking and drinkers from Olive Press Comics, Your Round: Tequila is a conscientiously crafted collection which provides both a mainstream polish and a mainstream restraint.

Mike McLean and Declan Shalvey's Dublin-set Hustle mixes off-duty lap-dancers, liquor and deception to diverting if unremarkable effect, its noir-ish tone and deftly realised, anticipation-provoking set-up elevating expectation, albeit inappropriately; the modest pay-off coloured flat as a result. Also Dublin-set, Bob Byrne's Say A Prayer For Me chronicles a gradually souring night-on-the-piss with the lads, and in its text-heavy, Clowes-like, conversational six pages, delivers a disarming, deceptively intimate, slice-of-life vignette. The under-occupied, over-economical, computer-aided panels of James Hodgkins' I Drink, Therefore I Am boast a sophisticated cartooning style and effectively employ a visual first-person narrative to reveal the cynical wit-tinged, beer-goggled observations of a barfly as-played-by-Orson-Welles (those goggles are required for Hodgkins' cover, by the way); and Shalvey's two-page chaser Know Your Limits just about justifies its inclusion courtesy of an inventive panel which succinctly captures in one go a whole night's drink-prompted activities.

Though, over all, lacking ambition and too insubstantial to be satisfying, the sound story-telling craft and sure-footedness of Your Round: Tequila offers entertainment enough to seduce the undemanding reader. Get it down you!

32 US-size pages, £2.50/$3.50, available from www.yourroundthecomic.com