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

Mister Amperduke

Posted on Feb 16, 2008

An epic story of revenge, redemption and Lego, Mister Amperduke is the graphic novel from The Shiznit's Bob Byrne, which reintroduces the world first glimpsed in the pages of MBLEH!, and continues the cartoonist's penchant for crafting the kind of wordless narratives familiar to readers of his 2000AD work. However, with its 150 pages of story-without-words, which predominantly consists of a bludgeoning 16-panel grid per page, this tome at times offers a reading experience not dissimilar to holding one's tongue, and rather than further develop the adult themes and subtext briefly explored in MBLEH!'s original Amperduke six-pager, Byrne targets the AVP generation with standard-issue schlock-horror, albeit dressed curiously and crafted with unerring grasp of sequentialism.

With Mr Amperduke hospitalised, a cruel grandchild bent on genocide surreptitiously introduces a monster to the miniature city of Amperduke's basement, a place inhabited by sentient creatures with Lego-men attire. The hardcore carnage of familiar genre territory follows, Amperville's Trumptonshire-like serenity replaced by much hi-octane action and violence as its citizens struggle for survival. For Byrne it's a return to the gratuitously unpleasant abuse of cute, bug-eyed cartoons with vulnerable, child-like characteristics, and despite delusional claims for greater substance in the book's foreword, the human interest aspect of the story is relegated to book-ends and fails to elevate a narrative hued with defective personality and caught in the gush of opened arteries. Yep, the kids'll love this to bits!

160 A5 pages for £11.95 / €14.95, available from clamnuts.com.