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posted December 2, 2003

Creators: Various
Publishing Information: $3, Carpal Tunnel Press
Ordering Numbers:

A comic book anthology presenting work from four mostly new cartoonists is rare thing these days, as the format choices of the under 35 crowd tend to bounce between total disposability and precious art object. That relative novelty aside, Failure has little to offer. Two stories feature the work of promising artists. Greg Vondruska's mini-saga of post-college weight gain contains several humorous depictions of the cartoonist's changing waistline. The underlying message of self-acceptance feels true to the facts as they unfold, but getting there is deadly dull. Drew Weing's short about a kid, probably the cartoonist, having his moles removed is the book's very modest best. At this point Weing seems to work more effectively in his other styles, but the competently rendered story lingers far longer than its inconsequential narrative deserves by smartly emphasizing details of the operation over nuances of emotion. A story by Antar Ellis could have been told in one page, and feels inauthentic due in part to its spare and generic settings. Jerry Stanford's "Addiction," makes use of an obtuse storytelling approach, all sideways glances and partial information. Yet none of it adds up to a unique or substantive insight, and when Stanford's figures are expected to portray a dramatic moment, or simply hold an emotion, the pacing dies right on the page. Rose Crowe kicks off the book with a tired cartoonist-talks-to-the-audience piece that makes everything that comes after look a little better, a story told in an extremely pedestrian style that sticks to rigid three-quarter body views and no backgrounds -- imagine Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics narrator's ex-girlfriend that none of his friends liked. At one point the older Crowe gently shakes her head over the younger version of herself for "getting so upset over nothing," which is bizarre in the midst of a comic that does little but fret in self-absorbed fashion over incremental changes in attitude and emotional outlook. Failure is a nice idea for an anthology, but if only to avoid the obvious joke the execution has to improve exponentially.