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June 14, 2007

CR Review: Dee Vee: Molotov


Creators: Eddie Campbell, Amber Caravan, Gary Chaloner, Michael Evans, James Kochalka, Christy McMurray, Mandy Ord, David Tang, Daren White
Publishing Information: Dee Vee Press, magazine-sized comic, 48 pages, 2002, $4.95
Ordering Numbers:

This is I believe the second to the most recent this-decade iteration of the Dee Vee anthology that was one of the better-known anthologies of the 1990s. It's scheduled for another go-round this month which piqued my interest in one of the hardier survivors of the CR to-review basket. Like most anthologies, you can judge the success of Dee Vee: Molotov by how well it provides what one expects of a good comics publication of its type within the parameters of its chosen theme or organizing principle. It's my understanding that Dee Vee should be seen as a a snapshot of the Australian comics scene, and although there are comics here that don't fall under that general conception -- James Kochalka here, Jeffrey Brown in the newest -- that would seem to accurately describe the thrust of the project.

I think the most generous appraisal off Dee Vee: Molotov is that it's one of those anthologies that's like an old Disney theme park ticket book with the E ticket already pulled. There's no Maus (RAW), or Robert Crumb short story (Weirdo), or From Hell (Taboo) or even a Kim Deitch (the later issues of Zero Zero) to set the tone and crystallize reader interest. This may be a casualty of its chosen area of exploration -- if the Australian scene of the moment doesn't have a Maus or near-equivalent, it may not appear in the anthology that spotlights its best comics. So already you're talking about one of those books that has to impress with its overall strength rather than one grand hit. This isn't unheard of in comics -- that's how Blab! and Buzzard and World War III present themselves -- but the degree of difficulty is rather high.

Unlike some of the previous issues of the anthology I've read, Dee Vee: Molotov sticks around for this fight, and bloodies a few noses along the way. A Daren White/Eddie Campbell collaboration "The Playwright" shows Campbell's skills as a straight-up comedy cartoonist, a role he fulfills quite well. Depth is provided by Christy McMurray, with a strange Huizenga/Campbell mix of lighthearted nonsense told in an illustrated tale style, and Mandy Ord, with a grotesquely designed but well-observed story of a woman falling in and out of dreams as she rides public transport. An illustrated essay by Gary Chaloner (a great idea for a book like this one) and a couple pages of the better James Kochalka sketchbook diary cartoons, and that's five features worth getting into, with two of the five being largely unfamiliar talents. That's an anthology worth picking up, and that makes me look forward to the new book.
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