Bob's Comics Reviews November 1998 Arrows


Kyle Baker: Why I Hate Saturn
I've picked this up before-- and put it down again, till a friend recommended it. It's one of those comics you can't really judge with a look-through-- you have to read the damn thing. Once you do, it turns out to be worth it.

Anne and RickyIt centers on cute, insecure, underachieving twentysomething Anne, who (implausibly) manages to support herself freelancing for a yuppie magazine in New York called Daddy-O. There's also Anne's very Californian sister Laura, who thinks she's from Saturn, and who comes to stay with Anne when she's been shot; and Anne's best bud, Ricky. And what do these people do? Talk, mostly.

But that's OK, because the talk is witty. Anne is like a little Fran Lebowitz; she rags on journalists, her sister, men, women, health nuts, anorexics, bus stations, trendoids; and when she gets together with Ricky they rag together.

Actually it's hard to find tidbits like that-- it's a flow of talk, not a barrage of epigrams.

The art has a comfortable, sketchy quality, and Baker anticipates Dan Clowe's use of a light color wash over B&W. It's not as pretty as Ghost World, though, perhaps because Baker's panels don't have the same level of visual interest of Clowes-- they're mostly the same talking heads over and over (not that they're not expressive). The graphic innovation (or perhaps I should say retrogression) is that Baker doesn't use word balloons, but typesets the dialogue (and interior monologues) under the panels. I don't know-- it looks stylish enough, but the art is not so astonishing that it needs to be set off in this way.

I think I don't buy the final pages-- I can't believe the changes in Anne. But that's just four pages out of 200-- don't worry about it. Just go buy it. We need more, much more of this.

Larry Marder: Tales of the Beanworld
You can't say he doesn't warn you: it says right on the cover, "A most peculiar comic book experience." It is. But it's fun.

Many, no doubt, are those who have created a set of personal doodles; but few have assembled them into a coherent world with its own ecology. There's the Beans, the Gran'Ma'Pa tree, the Four Realities, the Hoi Polloi Ring Herd, and the complicated life cycle of Chow, which is the Beans' food and the Hoi Polloi's money... in summary this probably sounds insufferably twee, but few pages, with their stylized black & white pix and general good humor, may be enough to hook you.

Or not. If you never did see the point of Pogo, Krazy Kat, or The King of Persia, you probably won't get Beanworld either.

If you do, however, you'll be tempted to talk about Bean mythologies, echoes of ecology and spirituality, stylization, and conceptual art. Or, at least, Marder (who says he wants to work on Beanworld for the rest of his life) explains that he wants you to think rather than just look. I don't know about this-- I haven't learned any life lessons from Beanworld. (I already know about ecology, thank you.) But I like looking at this unexpectedly complicated, obsessively created little microworld.

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