Friday, December 26, 2008

Like an Oven Mitt Cast in Iron

Just when I thought Chris Ware couldn't possibly do anything to further elevate his game, now comes Acme Novelty Library Volume Nineteen. I rant and rave about Ware to anyone who'll listen, but this time you really, really, really must obtain his latest collection, even if you've been steadfastly ignoring my prior sycophantic rants about him. It's the motherlode.

It's a honest-to-God Science Fiction story, real Science Fiction. At least the first part of it is. Somehow, the intro piece "The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars" manages to capture something unnameable but dreadful. In doing so, he scores a direct hit to the buried consciousness, in a way that his previous SF outings (like "Rocket Sam" and the Steampunk-ish future adventures of Jimmy Corrigan) lacked. And I hope y'all hurry and read it so you can explain a couple things about to me that seem to have flown over my head.

I can't go into the content without committing spoilers, such is the integrity of the story. But I will note that it's interesting to see that Ware is seemingly showing some subtle influences from Daniel Clowes these days. Then again, maybe it's just that they've been drawing from the same well for a long time now. Both the drawings of the pony-tailed woman, and the plot device of learning dark truths about one's father via his old pulp fiction/comics, are both very reminiscent of Clowes' quintessential masterpiece David Boring. It's fair game anyway, since some would say (okay, I would say) that Clowes entered a Ware-imitative period of his own several years ago which has produced comics like Ice Haven that have an odd Ware-Clowes-hybrid feel.

Be warned, though: the comic, like most of Ware's best works, is depressing as hell and can lead to insomnia followed by troubling dreams. Ware himself once felt the need to apologize for one of his collections, admitting that reading it felt "like being slapped with a wet oven mitt over and over", or words to that effect. Volume nineteen is mother of all literary wet oven mitts.

- - JSH

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