Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., May 12, 2006
by Jonathan Adams
City Cyclops, 128 pp., $18 (paper)
Pity the poor costumed heroes of our childhood: run through the post-modern wringer years ago and never quite the same again. Militantly complex, self-referential to a fault, how you gonna keep 'em down in the Spandex in a post-Watchmen world where the ability to shoot heat rays from the eyes, say, doesn't amount to bubkes when it's time to testify during divorce proceedings?
And now here's the canny and clever Jonathan Adams, a Slave Labor Graphics discovery, heaping insult upon injury and scorn upon scarring in his inaugural Truth Serum collection, one lousy with heroes and villains and those who love them, all soaked in enough self-sabotaging angst to drown a shipload of Crumbs.
The setting's a place called Manchester, a modern burg that Adams has rendered in fine architectural detail and which hosts an embarrassment of super-powered types with names like Don Sequitur, the Implantress, Double Felix, Lady Effluvia, Captain Force (and his putative evil twin, Ecrofni Aptac) and Superhim. Woe betide those citizens who cross paths with this crowd, for, verily, they will be confounded by petty concerns or niggled unto death by quotidian vicissitudes. And have we mentioned that this is all exceedingly funny? And precisely drawn with microfine-point pen and uniquely stylized shadows (a sort of geometric anti-highlight on a character's features), while aided by a smart series of articles that serve as textual sidekicks to the main hero of sequential art?
If you left costumed exploits behind after you started reading Chester Brown or Ann Beattie or watching the films of Todd Solondz, here's a viable return to the genre, thick with tasty chunks of emotional nihilism and social awkwardness and the sort of existential despair that not even a cape or silly mask can hide.
"Welcome to Manchester," the oversized book's back cover greets you. "Walk the streets, look at the houses, listen to the rhythm and hum of human potential being slowly ground to the consistency of a fine talc." Due to Jonathan Adams' cutting humor and sharp draftsmanship, you'll be glad you did. No, really.