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posted June 19, 2008
Ted May, M. Jason Robards, Jeff Wilson
Buenaventura Press, comic book, 40 pages, April 2008, $4.95
It's wonderful to see a new issue of any comic by Ted May; and doubly so when it's the continuation of a title rather than a brand new one. It's my memory, perhaps unearned, that as one of comics' more unique talents May tends to start and then abort projects as opposed to sticking them out. There's a certain amount of sense that goes with that approach, certainly, but this second issue of Injury
provides testimony to how effective it can be for a cartoonist to adhere to a certain range of effects in order to enhance and improve the rewards he's able to squeeze from them. In this case those results are considerable.
The noteworthy element to May's basic approach is that he mixes action-adventure formula with introspective, personal expression. What distinguishes Injury
, however, is found not in the concept but in how May and his collaborators execute that conceit with consistency and skill. In "Hair of the Dog," created with the writer Jeff Wilson, May's art compliments Wilson's story of 1980s life as a teenage burn-out with an energy that like that from the best Archie artists frequently crosses the line into fantasy. The difference lies in that this case the fantastic moments are firmly rooted in the fundamental awesomeness of new experiences obtained at a certain age and seeing one's values, no matter how silly, reflected in a group of friends and shared encounters. For a milieu soaked in banalities, there's something beautiful and generous in the way the pair depict the emotional high points. When our lead imagines a ghostly appearance by Don McCafferty (hilariously labeled as "the dude from Nazareth") in order to help himself over the initial pangs of heartbreak, it's hard not to recognize one's own cobbling together of meaningful art and certainty of emotions at a similar, past moment. It's also hard not to laugh.
In an installment of "Your Bleeding Face," we see more encounters between low-rent super-powered default-protagonist Manleau and a group of similarly scroungy antagonists. This brings to mind another adolescent conception of the world, one that was common to my own growing up, where teens took on larger than life characteristics based on their ability to commit violence on one another. They even have "moves," which May labels in highly entertaining fashion. There was a point in my life as a middle school student I was pretty sure these kinds of out-sized encounters took place all over my home county, perhaps minus a robot arm or two, perhaps not. If you want to know where all the alternative comic books went, here's one that along with books like Tales Designed to Thrizzle
could stand with any of the best works ever to be released in that format. I hope May does several dozen.