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Jessica Farm Vol. 2
posted July 18, 2016

imageCreator: Josh Simmons
Publishing Information: Fantagraphics, softcover, 104 pages, April 2016, $16.99.
Ordering Numbers: 1606999249 (ISBN10); 9781606999240 (ISBN13)

I'm not sure I wanted to review Josh Simmons' amiable, one-page-a-month horror fantasy as much as I simply wanted to make the joke, "S. Clay Wilson's Boyhood." Now that I've indulged myself, I'm a bit stuck for something meaningful to say. Deeper meaning is several years off with this project, whose next volume is due in 2024. We may have elected a celebrity genital mold to the office of president by the time Simmons wraps this sucker up. I have as much chance of finishing this series as I do D'Arc Tangent.

How about this? I like a great deal of Josh Simmons' work and those rare things I don't like I admire. You can make a very strong argument that without becoming a superstar Simmons was the alt-cartoonist of the aughts: idiosyncratic, kind to grotesques, adept at wince-level physical violence and comedy, all in service of a worldview so brutally cold that aimed in the right direction it could shut down the sun. In the horror show that was world politics for most of that decade, Simmons was the reassuring hand in the dark that took yours into his and then shoved it into something sharp and wet.

As one might expect from a project with these particular constraints, a gutter-style transition between each page to match one of Anne McCaffrey's time-traveling dragons, the narrative through-line of Jessica Farm occasionally congeals in a way you're left with the more immediate pleasures of Simmons' fascination with comics fundamentals. It makes sense that an obtuse creation strategy would takes it creator towards those things that comics seems to do very well. Volume one of JF gave us a measured exploration of a strange but familiar landscape. Volume two gives us bugnuts violence of the very, very berserk variety: from Thomas Ott to Johnny Ryan in less than 30 pages. My favorite sequence, however, came at the end of Volume 2 as Simmons uses his lead's scattered energy post-battle as a slow-build to a sex scene that suggests spiritual transformation, if only of the temporary variety. I hope future generations like this comic decades from now as much as I do right now.