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

Andy Luke's Comic Book #6

Posted on August 26, 2007

Mostly a collection of sequential doodles from the margins of Andy Luke's mind, some appear little more than thumbnails for more substantial comics works, while others resemble the worked-on primitiveness of Outsider Art, but all are suffused with intent: we should know that victim status is unacceptable; that personal power can be used to combat world woes; that tucking ourselves into cosy lives is to sidestep responsibility. Luke seems to be highlighting society's inherent culpability as well as that of the usual suspects.

Yes, it's an unapologetic rant, targeting both the corrupt and the apathetic alike: Bush, Blair, you, me, Moloch – we are all guilty of what Jean-Paul Sartre termed bad faith. Thankfully the moral certainty with which Luke delivers his sermon is made palatable by a warmth fuelled by self-deprecating humour, and while occasionally the gap between panels is too wide for the average cognisance to bridge, the resultant sense of abandonment – of being lost – proves agreeably abstract in a David Shrigley kind-of-way.

20 A5 pages, £1, check availability at http://andyluke.livejournal.com/