Let Us Be Perfectly Clear

Paul Hornschemeier, Author . Fantagraphics $19.95 (136p) ISBN 978-1-56097-752-0

This collection of Hornschemeier's short comics pieces displays the artist's enormous visual range—'60s-style gag cartooning, gritty caricature, spacey surrealism and a marvelous command of muted, flat-tone colors—as well as his consistently bitter, deadpan writing. He plays with forms and storytelling devices from the days when comics meant light entertainment, many of them filtered through his enormous stylistic debt to Chris Ware. (Even the book's flipbook design recalls Ware.) The best stories are the most surreal, like "Underneath," a wordless battle between two imaginary polar creatures, and "Everyone Felt It," a brief series of reactions without a context. But the overall tone is forced irony: in one typical sequence, a series of immaculate-looking pastiches (an old comic book, daily strips, a Sunday "Peanuts" setup) each end with a shaggy-haired hipster saying "Whatever dude." The book culminates in a suite of linked, flatly disaffected stories about television and escapism that never develop a point. Rarely has so much craft been applied in the service of so much unfocused nihilism, and the fact that Hornschemeier makes a gag out of it—a dumb cartoon called "Stupid Art Comics Are Stupid," followed by a harsh faux-academic critique—doesn't let him off the hook. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/30/2006
Release date: 11/01/2006
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