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posted May 6, 2008
MK Reed, Jonathan Hill, Aron Nels Steinke, Andy Hartzell, Greg Mean, Galen Longstreth
Tugboat Press, comic book, 32 pages, 2008, $4
This is a modest anthology of black and white comics work that becomes elevated a bit in stature for two things unrelated to content: it has near-perfect pitch, in that its lead story and its supplementary shorts mesh into a seamless presentation of ruminative autobio/fantasy; and it has a killer format. Papercutter
is a handsome little comic book of the Black Eye variety, by which I mean slightly smaller than a standard comic book with an upgrade all around in paper stock and general design. In a world where the alt-comics series and the Direct Market didn't have a huge falling-out period in the 1990s, every company would offer something like this, and we readers would all know that just about every other time we went into the comics shop there would be a new issue of one of these modest and sometimes clever anthologies.
The lead is probably the most interesting and most limited story of the bunch. I can't quite tell -- or recall from past issues -- if MK Reed and Jonathan Hill's "Americus" is a part of a longer serial, but that's what it feels like. It takes on a topic that should be close to a lot of readers' hearts: how fantasy novels and similar flights of fancy help or maybe even hinder kids during their adolescence. The idiosyncratic touch displayed in the development of that core idea could serve the story that much better were it applied throughout; what one gets instead is a fairly standard-issue set of players and situations, from the way the bullies reduce everything to homosexual acting out to the old cliche of one outcast being slightly more able to mainstream himself than the other. It's pleasant work, but it will likely have to hit someone's set of memories directly to truly engage them.