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Death Trap
posted April 27, 2010


Creator: Lane Milburn
Pubishing Information: Closed Caption, softcover, 104 pages, April 2010, $10
Ordering Numbers: 9780615350646 (ISBN13)

I'm not sure there's a whole lot I can say about this one. It's two stories, a shorter one in color and a longer one in black and white. They're both ably presented; the book seems more interested in capturing certain effects with which we're largely familiar, in slightly new ways, than in showing us something we haven't seen before, and that's fine with a younger cartoonist's work. The color story is a re-telling of the planned obsolescence gag; that's even its title. The gag is basically that a dramatic story moment of a gun jamming is revealed as a purposeful design flaw by the manufacturer hoping to sell more weapons. Milburn greases the story a bit by making the dramatic moment not that dramatic and adding a innocent victim of the underclass, but it's much the narrative I remember. I don't know as much about comics color as I should, but these pages have the feel of the color markers I remember from 30 years ago, the kind that come in clear plastic and bleed into one another on cheap paper.

The second story and the one that gives the book its title is another familiar narrative: the out-in-the-woods slasher movie -- encounter with despicable and fantastically out-sized hillbillies variation. Milburn provides the action scenes with a surprising visceral oomph, making grand use of comics' sometimes unsteady grasp of physical spacial relationships to suggest imminent danger, or murder about to overtake our stand-ins. It's hard to feel exactly where you are and they are, if that makes more sense. The most memorable thing in the story is the magnificently bizarre design of one evil hillbilly -- he also appears in the first story -- whose goose-like head and squat frame evokes an ambulatory penis perched on top of an NFL nose tackle in his tidy-whities. It was hard not to cheer him on.