27 January 2012

Chainsaw Comics Presents: Fear

Introduction by Alan David Doane:

I don't fear death. I know that oblivion and non-existence await my consciousness at the moment I breathe my last, and there's comfort in that thought. After all, I spent billions of years not existing before I was born, so I figure I'll be pretty good at it again after I die. In between my two long periods of non-existence, though, I did learn to fear a few things.

Dental work. There's not much more I dread. I have recurring nightmares of looking in the mirror as my teeth fall out, one by one. The clinking sound they make as they impact with the porcelain sink haunts me. I've gone months in ever-increasing agony because I fear going to the dentist. And since every trip to the dentist has ended with the problem resolved and the pain gone, it is about the most irrational fear I can imagine.

Pain. Closely related to the above, yes, but I also worry about falling on the ice (I live in upstate New York, when ice is a possibility about six months of the year) and breaking a bone. Last year my daughter turned to hug a friend on the sidewalk and twisted her foot the wrong way, and don't even ask me how this is possible, but she broke the hell out of her foot and was in a cast and in pain for nearly six months. To watch your child suffer while you are helpless to make it go away is one of the most frustrating and awful parts of being a parent, and one they don't mention in those cheery, hazy impending parenthood videos.

Poverty. I spent a lot of time in the past couple of years fearing what any worsening of the already devastated economy might mean for my family. It was a dark time, one that I am glad to be emerging from, and I hope the many millions living in similar circumstances are given a hand up sometime soon. But seeing how ineffective this nation's leaders are, I fear they won't be.

There are other things I fear, but I should stop introducing and let the reviewing begin. Chainsaw Comics Presents: Fear is filled with cartoonists I enjoy, like Jason Marcy, L. Nichols, Box Brown and others. I didn't find the time to write a review myself, but luckily the Flashmob Fridays gang did.

Joseph Gualtieri:

Chainsaw Comics Presents Fear, edited by Aaron Brassea, Nathan Stryker, and L. Nichols is like most comics anthologies a mixed bag. At a slim 100 pages of comics and just under 30 stories, there’s always another story just a few pages away that might make up for a dud. All the stories deal with the theme of fear, as befits the title, but the approaches vary greatly. Some illustrate what seem like deeply personal fears, others illustrate common phobias, and quite a few tales are humorous.

“Hug” by Simon Taylor is probably the single best story in the anthology. It’s quite creepy and beautifully illustrated in a Manga style. “Where Will You Spend Eternity” by Flashmob Friday favorite Box Brown is other contender for that title. It’s a terrific semi-abstract dream about the fear of what happens after death. “Be Careful Where You Hide Your Secrets” by Dino Caruso and Paul Little is another one of the strongest shorts; the art is probably the closest to that found in mainstream comics within the volume, and the story deftly combines fears about intimacy, the invasion of privacy, and what happens when you share your art.

“A Bigfoot Adventure” by Jefery J. Manley and “Big Bad Wolf” by Clifton Chandler are two of the better-looking tales in the anthology, but have weaker stories. The former is clearly trying to be wacky, as the characters include a Grim Reaper and some sort of floating blob, but it never quite comes together. “Big Bad Wolf” has gorgeous chiaroscuro art, and no dialogue. It feels like the beginning of a story rather than a complete take on the wolves from fairy tales.

There are too many short funny tales in the volume to mention them all but standouts include: “A Grave Error” by JT Yost, a hilarious take on the fear of being buried alive, “Atychiphobia” by Aaron Brassea and Nathan Stryker, where a man’s fear of failing at creating his own music leads to him quitting his job to be in a Beatles cover band, and “What Not to Think About in the Dark” by Evan Nichols, where an adult at a summer camp is persuaded to tell the kids what he finds scary in the dark. The latter in particular stands out as exactly hits on the difference between the fears of children and adults, which makes it rather poignant despite its short length.

Anthologies are always a rough sell, but Chainsaw has a good model here and I’m already looking forward to their next book, this time about Joy.

Roger Green:

I LOVE the idea of the Chainsaw Comics anthology on fear. Different perspectives about what people are afraid of. The trick with a multi-creator product, though, is that it will almost invariably be of differing quality.

So, story #1 -meh, story #2 - meh; are these guys brothers of different mothers? A similar vibe. Story #3 - meh. Then there was story #4, which has some of the worst lettering ever; it's in cursive, and I found it REALLY irritating.

It's about this point that I decided that the exercise wasn't worth it. But then story #5, Addie by Robyn Jordan. I didn't love it, but it was about something. What Have I Done? by Brad Britton was slight, and he can't spell "piece", but it showed better technique than the earlier works.

I actually thought A Boy and His Dog by Bren Collins was "real". And from then on, the level of storytelling improved quite a bit. Some stories I liked, others, not quite, but the percentage of positive tales was higher than the duds. Things That Go Bump in the Night by Aaron Brassea gave me a mild chuckle. A Bigfoot Adventure by Jeffrey J. Manley went on too long for the joke, and had some production problems on one page, but had potential. Big Bad Wolf by Clifton Chandler had an interesting wood carving effect.

Kurt & Adele: A Love Story by Emi Gennis, based on real people, was quite strong, though it too had a production issue. There's a nice twist in A Grave Error by J.T. Yost. Re: Thanatophobia by Non-Work in Progress - I've been there. My Silent Fear by Bob Lipski I liked. I KNOW the guy in Atychiphobia by Aaron Brassea and Nathan Stryker, and appreciated the Beatles reference.

Perhaps my favorite piece is Be Careful Where You Hide Your Secrets by Dino Caruso and Paul Little. Maybe it's because anyone who has ever been in more than one relationship might be able to relate to the situation. It's also arguably the best drawn item in the collection.

Anxious About How Guilty To Feel by Tom McHenry is interesting to me, because, while it doesn't particularly apply to me, I took it as information about others. Clever one-page is What Not to Think About In the Dark by Evan Nichols.

Someone should have edited Pumpkin by Simon Taylor. If, somehow, the message in the last paragraph had been slowly revealed throughout the last page, it would have been far more effective. Also the word 'you' is written 'yopu' at one point.

Finally, Perfect Man versus Confidence by Chris Fenoglio was a fun tale in the superhero motif.

Having read through it twice, I should say that it is far better than I had expected. But I think some of the weakest material is in the front. Still, I would give it a chance; enough of it is good to make it worthwhile. I'd be interested to see the subsequent collection, Joy, scheduled for later this year.

Buy Chainsaw Comics Presents: Fear from Amazon.com.

1 comment:

  1. I checked out Emi's story for the production issue Roger mentioned and found there's a blurry panel in the lower-res pdf I made for reviewers, but it looks fine in the actual book. I'm not sure what the production issue for the bigfoot comic was.