Tuesday, July 16, 2013

365 Comics...197: Arsenic Lullaby: The Big Stall (2013)

I'm not certain if this is a graphic novel, a trade paperback or an oversized floppy.  It's bigger in size than a normal comic, and its only sixty pages so its not quite graphic novel length (nor does it feature one continuous story...it's more an anthology of comedy) and I can't tell if the four pin-ups in the center of the book are supposed to imply this was originally four issues (actual or intended).  The back page features a host of names which I can only guess (well only guess or do a modicum of research online, but who has time for that? I'm writing most of these posts at bedtime with a stylus and finicky character recognition system that still doesn't cotton to my chicken scratch even after nearly 200 posts) are Kickstarter supporters, to all of whom I'd like to thank for making this latest gem from Douglas Paszkiewicz a reality.

This one's a beaut, in full colour even.  As from any Arsenic Lullaby book there's the expected "bad taste" jokes (involving the holocaust and the blind and veterans and the like) which skate by handily as comedy in not making them the target of the jokes (of course the easily offended/overly sensitive/humourless should stay away).  Paszkiewicz has long ago mastered the shock comedy art and while they may be the more memorable aspects of his work it's always his longer-form, character-driven work that I appreciate even more. there he cycles through multiple stories each of Baron Von Donut, Cthulu, and the stage magician the Great Duranti.  In the case of Baron Von Donut it all tangential, disconnected, while the Great Duranti stories  connect in a nonlinear fashion revealing ever more curious tidbits about the character and his journey.  Meanwhile the recurring Cthulu bits play out as one narrative brilliantly building in compartmentalized chunks of comedy.  The rest of the book is rounded out by a number of pop culture tinged skits (including a trio of Wizard of Oz themed ones), which I don't recall seeing so prevailently in AL in the past (but I could just be remembering the character-centric and shock sketches the most).

Paszkiewicz's art is at its most confident here, just an unprecedented level of consistency and craft (much of which he conveys in a lesson on "leading the eye" in the backmatter... a fascinating read for illustrators and comic art fans, particularly of economical or comedic storytelling.  Paszkiewicz's art in the past had felt a little rough around the edges, a little unsure, but he's grown with each subsequent effort into a distinct storyteller with a very unique style that now feels fully polished.  It's not just the C colour, every line feels assured.

Arsenic Lullaby has for years ranked with he best of the best humour comics and The Big Stall shows no sign of decline.

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