It's not porn. Porn is intended to arouse. It's not erotic, either -- erotic art succeeds in arousing. On the other hand, here's an erection, there's an erection...here are a whole bunch of breasts...here's a hideous hot tub orgy! If it's not porn and it's not erotic, what is this stuff?|
Oh, of course. It's alternative comics.
The premise is this: Christopher Vigliotti, a former dot-commer with a fat severance package, isn't sure what to do with himself. So he and a couple of friends fly off to the Hedonism II resort in Jamaica for the weekend. (No, I'm not sure why, either.) He meets up with some 50-something swingers, one friend gets addicted to cocaine, and another friend tries desperately to score.
It all plays out in more or less the most loathsome fashion you can imagine, with the coke fiend actually somehow turning out to be the most sympathetic character in the cast. Of course, we don't have to see him naked. That probably helps his case a lot. We don't witness him accidentally gulping down a mouthful of hot tub water with the consistency of egg drop soup, and wondering how many guys have "splooged" in it, either. That definitely contributes to his likability. And hell, I'm generally predisposed to appreciate any man whose knee isn't the object of a woman's frictional attentions in front of my face.
The joy of alternative comics, as far as writer/artist team Mike Dawson and Chris Radtke are apparently concerned, is that you don't really have to do much work to show some relative measure of success. Just make a glib pop culture reference or two, create one even remotely insightful character, and your work is done.
Radtke should get some credit for his art -- a surprisingly polished collection of black lines on white paper, given the slipshod storytelling it represents -- and Dawson can write some reasonably sharp dialogue when he loses his cool and actually displays some enthusiasm. This issue's shining moments all come from a character named Garry, a bulging ape of a man with one simple goal in life. "Lemme tell you -- that's what it's all about. Banging as many chicks as possible! We're like animals, that's all we want to do." The crazed look in his eyes, the contortions of his anatomy, are an obvious gag, but even in this endlessly cynical comic Garry shines as a truly hideous conglomeration of regrettable qualities, all cribbed from actual human beings. The fact that you can almost picture him actually existing is what separates him from the protagonist Chris, a cartoonish oaf whose most redeeming quality is that he's too damn stupid to really do much harm.
But one reasonably sharp characterization does not excuse the total absence of structure, humor, emotion and plot. What' most irritating here is that it's difficult to believe the creators even tried on this one. One of the book's main subplots abruptly disappears seemingly because the writer just plain ran out of space. Nothing is really resolved in a remotely meaningful fashion. In the end, none of the characters have learned anything in particular and nothing of consequence has been accomplished. (So kind of like real life, then? -- Ed.)
Of course, the book's fans will dismiss my criticism with that old hipster maxim, "You just don't get it." Honestly, they're right. I don't get why, when producing, printing, and distributing a comic is such hard work, these artists slacked off on all the parts that matter. I don't get it at all.
-- Mike Meginnis