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Stylish Vittles: All The Way
posted May 11, 2003
The enduring mystery here is why this pleasant but not at all accomplished work has been given the deluxe, trade paperback treatment. Okay, the real puzzler is actually the name. But beyond the curious title, one has to wonder about the audience for this book. Stylish Vittles: All The Way drags its readers through the period in a relationship -- roughly the author's own, I'd guess -- when things progress from the just-dating stage to something that resembles abiding, committed love. Tyler and Nanette dance around their feelings for one another with all the energy of relatives paired up in a wedding waltz. Still, with its basis in real life as observed by the cartoonist, Page unearths a few interesting details. Page finds a great deal to work with in the latecomer's role that the sex act can play in an already-intimate relationship. Also enjoyable is Tyler's bordering-on-contempt irritation at Nanette's devotion to her parents.
A few moments of truthful yet inarticulate revelation do not make for a book as large and ambitious as this one. The storytelling from page to page lacks anything resembling an interesting rhythm. For large segments the narrative drones on about details and permutations that may only interest the artist and his friends -- comparative relationships, minute details of dorm/apartment life, comic book commentaries. As visual signifiers the characters lack solidity and grace, and no one stands out in terms of distinct characterization. In general, the artist's ability to depict the world around him fails to improve noticeably over the massive span of his tale. And unlike some other small press artists who work out of what seems to be the same indy comics tradition -- the Los Angeles animator Paul Sloboda, for instance -- Page avoids stand-alone graphic flourishes of the kind that might draw the reader into the story for the art's sake. Page's attempts at breaking the fourth wall, jumping from time to time, and even the fragments of a story within a story seem more like self-indulgence or, worse, filling space, than a competent storyteller adding degrees of complexity to his work. Even if one sticks with the book to garner a few more scenes of domestic detail, they will likely come away disappointed. Tyler and Nanette seem like nice people, but their lives as depicted here are mostly dull. They're also relentlessly decent and understanding and like-me-despite-my-flaws cute -- the book at times reads like Luann: The College Years. It's a fine life Page leads, but without substantial leaps forward in the art and the writing of it there's no reason for the rest of us to pay attention.