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Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man
posted March 9, 2005
La Mano, 144 pages, $12
John Porcellino is one of the odder cartoonists working in comics. A strict minimalist who focuses on events grounded firmly in his own life experience, Porcellino is also the primary publisher of his work, in mini-comic format. His King-Cat Comix and Stories
series, despite its plain, direct, Xeroxed nature, slipped into some Top 100 of the 20th Century lists.
Give credit to Porcellino's fascinating narrative voice, which is open and honest without slipping into a falsely idealized romanticism or manipulative whimsy. When Porcellino does comics about being younger, for instance, there's almost none of the older artist's sympathies or desire to flatter for the reader to struggle past. That skill is underlined by a unique sense of pacing that generally doesn't skip over what many might call the mundane parts, the points in-between; thus the reader is forced to stop and take stop of Porcelino's life much more on the terms it's experienced rather than in the way it's presented. Porcellino has also managed over the years to become a highly evocative artist, with an attractive instead of rudimentary line.
The extent of Porcellino's development is on display in Diary of a Mosquito Abatement Man,
a collection of shorts about Porcellino's most prevalent employment experience in Illinois and Colorado. Vocational comics have a nice pedigree going back to the underground, even if fewer and fewer cartoonists seem to have jobs worth writing about. Porcellino deftly breaks his job down into its interesting, banal and absurd assignments, which provides the reader with the ammunition he needs to concentrate on Porcellino's eventual moral dissatisfaction with the process. Some of the observational work is dead-on; I particularly enjoyed the way he describes people he sees in an industrial complex he sprays with a slow moving truck. There are a couple of odd men out, and the book seems short one major piece, but overall this a nice, short collection from one of comics' best, a fine debut for La Mano, a handsome design showcase for Tom Devlin and well worth seeking out if only to experience Porcellino's approach to the art form for yourself.