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posted March 5, 2008
Fantagraphic/Coconino, Ignatz Line, over-sized comic book, 32 pages, March 2008, $7.95
If you're of a certain age, the subject matter of Ganges
#2 might hit you the same way those "An 18 year old right now..." lists get under your skin and make you feel decrepit and out of touch. You know the kind: "An 18 year old right now doesn't remember a president before Clinton." That kind of thing. The sublimely talented Kevin Huizenga has set his latest fictional offering in the first Internet economy boom and collapse, the one with all the venture capital and ridiculous parties and companies that never made much money at all. He establishes his setting through a close study of one office's adherence to a Doom-style video game played over a shared system, describing how the maniacal passion for the game both mirrored and contrasted with the empty and just-as-complex exercise that was much of the company's actual business.
As has been the case for almost a half-decade now, Huizenga's cartooning proves extremely pleasurable, almost luxurious, that kind of comics that you feel you could 1000 pages of without getting sick of it. There is a greater narrative density to this story than to past Huizenga efforts, I think, a greater attention to slight permutations of behavior among the office workers that allows the cartoonist to stretch towards an entirely different set of goals than recent Ganges tales. The ending here is more elusive and less profound than some of the stunning turns that drove some past works; the closest thing to a bravura visual sequence comes at the story's beginning, where Huizenga uses his own fighting comics and abstract drawings to suggest the kind of video game that takes his everyman narrator on a ride in the nostalgia shuttle. The richness of Huizenga's approach shows itself in smaller, pitch-perfect moments, such as the blow-by-blow description of strategy during one gaming session including Ganges' casual, funny dismissal of a player obviously playing a bit over his head, or the hilariously obtuse conversations the company's workers are forced into having with their boss. If anyone out there sees this as a step back from the kind of showier, emotional pieces of recent vintage, I'd ask them to take a second look.