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

Last Bus

Posted on June 8, 2008

The dull routine of a pedantic bus-driver is the focus of this week-in-the-life vignette published by Cardboard Press. The route of the No. 230 double-decker through an unnamed urban cityscape allows promising creator Patrick Lynch adeptly demonstrate a fluid storytelling craft, while the familiar dialect and antics of passengers offer clues toward identifying its Irish location. The glimpse of drama offered by a denouement on-the-periphery isn't quite enough to counter the lulled doze prompted by the subdued rhythms of the work, but compositional know-how and grey washes add substance to the breezy cartooning style, and the creator's firm grasp of sequentialism make this unremarkable comic a diverting-enough ride/read. Ultimately then, Last Bus is a technically sound comic with more city-centre than emotional centre. Do stick your hand out, though.

24 squared A4-ish pages for €3, available from www.patrickl.net or www.cardboardpress.com