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

Gazebo #1

Posted on July 3, 2008

In a session with his therapist a young man struggling for emotional sustenance tentatively examines his psychological survival. Writer Liam Geraghty, in collaboration with Matter cartoonist Phil Barrett, employs a warm, good-humoured touch that sidesteps complexity and analysis in favour of throwaway pathos and a bland, more universal appeal. Comprising a series of mostly-symbiotic, mostly-slight one- and two-page strips that revisit resonant episodes in the protagonist's life (and, in the strips Wank and Slight Retort, that inadvertently revisit works by Dan Clowes and Adrain Tomine) this light brushing of the surface of poignant subject matter is delivered via the Clowes-inspired structure of fractured narrative, and proves a disciplined debut for Geraghty. Barrett's cartooning, as ever, is exquisite; his style possessed of a quiet humanity. Highlight of the issue is the visceral Nightmare, and Boy Campers – wherein our protagonist accidentally asks a pal's sister if he can sleep in her.

20 A5-ish pages for €3, available from www.blackshapes.com/