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Fuzz and Pluck In Splittsville #5
posted February 25, 2008
Fantagraphics, comic book, 32 pages, February 2008, $4.95
The fifth and final serial installment of Ted Stearn's humorous and frequently bizarre Splitville
doesn't cover much ground in terms of story. Pluck makes his escape from The Floating Arena where at the height of his misfortune, he's reunited with Fuzz. Because it's clear that they're on the road again, as it were, by the last page of the book, the two moments of closure more directly come in the leads' reunion and their putting distance between themselves and the status quo represented by the rest of the book. The ending feels gracious
in a way, the closest thing we're allowed to a happy ending when dealing with characters like these, slightly abstract and exaggerated beings solely defined by their needs.
If you stop to examine the simplicity of the twin narratives as they unfolded throughout the series, it's clear that Stern believes less in the destination than the journey, or more accurately the various rest stops and odd tableaux to found along the way. The cartoonist manages to tap into the pleasure center that's activated by old comic strips and early animation, the joy of seeing strange creatures having mad experiences with just enough grounding in reality to give individual events a sense of proportion and purpose. The strongest thing about the book past grounding in atmospherics fostered by the cartoonist's unique visual sense is Stearn's ability to use gentle, layered humor that's almost entirely based on turns of fate whose unfolding never seems arbitrary. The strength of Stearn's voice finds greatest purchase in character and interpersonal relationships, making for a comic where we feel each individual's voice and the peculiarities of their world in slight, almost hinted-at strokes, graceful touches that allows us to settle comfortably into the understated lunacy of what unfolds.