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posted December 31, 2000
Slave Labor Graphics, $2.95, 1999
#7 is doubly recommended for reprinting the best story Dorkin had finished previous to this summer with "What Does It Look Like I'm Doing" (from 1995's Instant Piano
#4) and publishing the best comics work he's ever done, the original "Cluttered, Like My Head," in many ways a continuance of the same story.
Together, "What Does It Look Like" and "Cluttered" serve as an interesting spin on the comic-book confessional, as Dorkin's predeliction towards entertainment and showmanship keep interrupting the ostensibly more serious self-directed narrative. The all-new story is even more convoluted in that it contains not one but two major plot devices that speak to Dorkin's state of mind: the devil hand-puppet, who hilariously berates Dorkin in his presence and runs him to complete strangers out of it; and a Greek chorus of personalities geared towards Dorkin's tendency to entertain, make money, and to achieve higher art.
Dorkin has never been a more assured storyteller, and in the second story deftly avoids his sometimes-tendency tendency to overexplain the concepts in favor of letting the reader pick it up as they go. Moreover, he uses subtle narrative techniques I can't remember him utilizing before now, particularly panel transitions that count on subtle visual clues, and similarities in language to link different scenes.
The end result is a compelling picture of Dorkin's mindset at a certain point and time. Unlike similar cartoonists' struggle to come to terms with the legacy of a sheltered, protected, pop culture-obsessed life, Dorkin is honest enough to admit he still lives there a lot of the time. Anyone who read the Journal
interview in issue #214 will recognize several of the same agonizing self-examinations and observations, from the 1996 fear-of-flying nervous breakdown to a cameo by the Rom
comic book in which his art appeared. Dork
#7 is a great starting point for any reader suspicious of Dorkin's previous work, and simply a well-done and honest comic for the rest of us.