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Skyscrapers of the Midwest #1
posted February 21, 2005
AdHouse Books, 56, pages, $5
In many ways, Josh Cotter's work is a lot like other alternative cartoonists'. He dwells on adolescent humiliations with an incredibly unforgiving eye, and he uses the the trappings of fantasy to unpack the disassociative worldview of his protagonists. One gets the sense he may be not quite as contemptuous of the moments of reveries as some other authors can be. The chubby child that daydreams of a robot destroying a classmate who throws a dodgeball at it or the younger child that dreams of flying around on a cow seem to really need those fantasies in order to muddle through the dreary choices around them.
Cotter's still developing as an artist, but he has enough skill to really cut loose with those scenes, with an approach reminiscent of greeting card-era Crumb. He keeps the reader in the emotional moment without overwhelming the more pungent sense of reality that comes before or afterword. Cotter tells several stories of miserable humiliation. The best comes last, when a boy has to beg out of a birthday present because it's too geeky to be worn at school, and the sickly pall this casts over the household is played out in the rejected backpack taking life and hitting the road. It's funny and sad and somehow makes the whole scenario that much more pathetic.
This is a very promising debut -- not in that comics way that Cotter is ready to be overpraised for six months and then kicked in the teeth for two years, but in that his comic looks like little else out there right now and there's enough skill on display one hopes for future work where everything in his stories becomes sharper, and his timing less crude.