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

Sorry I Can't Take Your Call Right Now But I'm Off Saving The World

Posted on September 30, 2008

Even with eyes set firmly in the shadow of one's critical cap it's impossible not to mine redeeming elements in every work of an anthology produced with charitable intent, and so it is with this uneven-but-worthy comics collection – all proceeds from the sale of Sorry I Can't Take Your Call Right Now But I'm Off Saving The World are destined for GOAL. Delivering work inspired by this title-trigger – the answering machine message of editor Cliodhna Lyons' late father when working abroad with aid organisations – the anthology offers a diversity of styles and subject matters.

Featuring the 1- to 8-page works of 30 creators, this attractive, polished volume delivers a veritable mix-bag of penny chews, with some chews inevitably tastier than others. Cricket In A Bag, by Catherine and Tomm More, briefly explores the impact volunteers in Kenya have on rescued street children, to uplifting consequence. In sedate parable Planting, Christopher and Ellen Ruggia touch on personal responsibility via a horticulturist who understands the conditions of the world and who has found her own tranquillity and order. Malte Knaack's The Visit moodily evokes the absence of closure in a broken relationship as exes spend a listless weekend together. 1963 pastiche The Living Proton, by Gar Shanley and Cathal Duggan, is an adroitly realised sci-fi superhero parody wherein our hero does battle in a quantum world's haberdashery realm. And in Jenny Linn-Cole's cosmic allegory Dog Man Saves The World three lolloping mutts have their delightful way with a familiar globe.

Also in the creator-mix are the chewy Joe Decie, Sarah McIntyre, Lee Thacker, John Maybury, Philip Barrett and others (including me; as masticatory as they come). And though much of the material is superfluous to the spirit of a title poignantly personalised by Cliodhna Lyons – and not intended to stretch the limits of creative endeavour – there is conscientiously crafted work on offer, diverting-enough to satisfy the undemanding reader, and gathered and bound into an uncommon publication with intent substantial-enough to eschew the dampening appraisal of criticism. Recommended.

96 A5 pages, £5.50 / €7, available from http://www.goalanthology.com/