Welcome to the newest, bestest year of them all! The universe has decided to save the best for last, so as we count down the Mayan calendar, let’s take a look at some of the mini comics we’ll need to stockpile to get us to the end times.
La Petite Mort is about zombies and sex; two great tastes that don’t normally go together at all even a little. The premise has an interesting hook; the dead are coming back to life, but rather than killing and/or feasting on brains, they just hang around and masturbate. Unfortunately, I found the execution to be a bit too jokey for my taste. High concept stories tend to work best when played straight. The premise of this book is funny enough that it doesn’t really need any winks to the reader or puns to enliven it. That only serves to shrink the world that is being built down to the size of a running gag. Russell Ihrig avoids this for the most part, but things like the Federal Undead Control Department or FUCD, make the trombone in the back of my mind go “wa-waaaaaaa.”
Additionally, as interesting as the premise is, the book only gives it ten pages to breathe. That’s not much space to set up the bizarre scenario, establish the central mystery, and still work in some twists and gross-out moments. The result is a cool idea that rushes to the punch-line. I would love to see this story expanded upon and explored in more detail; there is a lot of room for world building here.
The art of La Petite Mort is solid and I applaud Ihrig’s fearlessness in drawing complex backgrounds and perspective. I would be interested to see what he can do with a longer story.
As I’ve done in the past, le me again state up front that Pat Barrett is someone who I know from the Center for Cartoon Studies, and this fact should probably be taken into account when reading my review.
Oak & Linden #1 is a collection of four short comics with a wide range of themes. They tend to be on the surreal side and mix humor with melancholy. The art is also a melding; of realism and detail with cartoonish-ly rubbery limbs. This gives Barrett’s work a unique style, but it sometimes works against the clarity of storytelling. His devotion to detail can result in panels where everything has been given equal line weight; making it a difficult composition to navigate. The rubbery limbs, on the other hand, work well in moments of action and whimsy, but I found them distracting in moments of melancholy. That said, the writing in this book is uniformly strong, so any issues that I had with the art are more than made up for.
The strongest piece in Oak & Linden #1 is “Petrified Girlfriend.” It starts in a place of absurdism; with the protagonists’ girlfriend freezing on his bed; and drifts effortlessly into a charming boy-meets-girl reminiscence of how they first met (as he nestles beside her, trying to thaw her out). The art is fun and lively, and the writing is some of the book’s most personal.
Overall, Oak & Linden is a perfect introduction to Barrett’s work. He has two new issues of the series out, and from what I gather several of these stories (including “Petrified Girlfriend”) are continued therein.