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Prison Pit Book 3
posted November 29, 2011

imageCreator: Johnny Ryan
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 120 pages, 2011, $12.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781606994979

I have no idea if it was part of cartoonist Johnny Ryan's overall plan for Prison Pit, but thia latest book in the growing-to-classic-status series strikes me as a "step-back" installment. This is where a series that was once less certain in the market place eschews some of the instant gratification of its first couple of books for the sake of layering in additional plot elements that look like they'll pay off further down the line. It's the kind of work that makes you think that its creator is thinking of the long-term as opposed to focusing solely on the short. Prison Pit had some of that particular swagger from the very beginning; this book seems even more settled and confident.

In this third volume, readers meet a potential major antagonist -- or I guess even ally -- for our hero Cannibal Fuckface. We also get a glimpse of both the schematics and on-the-ground reality of the strange place where the lead is currently being held. The primary joys of the book remain firmly lodged in the series' resolutely creative and largely disgusting fight choreography. The best scenes of that type on display here move the plot along and establish the tough-guy credentials of the character seeking out our man. I admire the consistent logic that Ryan brings to the physical encounters. Speed and durability rule over power, drug-related surges in effectiveness and biological implements. This is not only as it should be; it's necessary that Ryan pay attention to his story in that particular way in order to keep the narrative from careening into arbitrary-seeming nonsense. It's a finer line than one might think, surprising the reader in a way that also makes clear and satisfying sense. As was the case with the first two books, Johnny Ryan makes his case for mastery at a second, very specific genre, connected to the first through the extremes of expression involved.