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posted July 21, 2008
Rick Veitch, Alan Moore, Steve Bissette
King Hell, album, softcover, 2008, $16.95
The best thing about this short collection of Rick Veitch works, including his contribution to Marvel's long-time ago flirtation with European album-sized "graphic novels" that gives this edition its title, is a series of short notes in the back where he basically admits that lead story's shortcomings. Veitch perceptively notes that since it was done for Epic Illustrated
, he built into Heartburst
a structure that flattered not just the required breakdown of the story into component parts but a way to use that to make distinct the three periods of time in the characters' lives through which the narrative takes place. Placed under one cover, this element is no longer as great a factor, even with a fix on the structure to break things up a bit more cleanly. Heartburst
remains charming and very definitely of a time; 13-year-old me read it over my shoulder and said "all right!" during the nudie parts, if that makes any sense. Unfortunately, it's difficult to figure out whether the connections made, say, between intimacy and a sense of cultural remove are intentional or something you read into a comic that's more a bunch of parts than a cohesive whole. If there are works compelling of themselves and those that are interesting because of what they add to a wider discussion of a creator and their works, this falls into the latter camp. Both me and 13-year-old me liked seeing that strange approach Veitch had to color at the time, but only the older version found some of the faces and figure drawing more jarring than appealing.
What I found most enjoyable about the short stories that make up the rest of this self-published book is that they inform each other as much as the progression of Veitch's later career, revealing a psychological interest in missed connections, for instance, and the gossamer-thin barrier between vastly different turns in life. The best of these works is a collaboration with Steve Bissette and Alan Moore called "The Mirror of Love": a fine, short comics essay (essays in comics form are rarer than you might think) that may be more interesting for its context than for its substance. One imagines it the first essay of any kind on this subject that 85 percent of its original readership encountered, and looking over my shoulder at the look on my 13-year-old face, one remembers the power of unfamiliar ideas in a comfortable form.