To wrap things up on my Patreon preview week here, I present a recent review of a VERY unique project —
One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Domino — and I’m sure this is true for all the readers of this site who also buy books from them either “on the regular” or occasionally — is that once in awhile proprietor Austin English somehow gets ahold of something that utterly defies not only categorization, but even description. And while on the surface, at least, Ina Parsons’ A SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK would seem to do neither, given that its title clearly states both what it is AND what sort of genre category it fits into, let’s face it : appearances can be deceiving.
Ironically, however, it’s the APPEARANCE of the three (to date) purported “comic books” in this series that’s the first thing to clue you in to the fact that there’s something very different going on here : roughly the size of maybe a kid’s hand, each “issue” consists of four heavy cardstock “pages” glued (I think, at any rate) inside even HEAVIER cardboard “covers” — we’re clearly talking, then, about genuinely HAND-MADE items here, with each “cover” and “back cover” consisting of reverse-image collage art and each interior image being a double-“page” spread that juxtaposes a provocative sentence fragment with, again, frankly mysterious collages, each of which uniformly evokes the look and feel of photographic negatives, albeit negatives shot through with intentionally garish color schemes.
Hey, I TOLD YOU this shit was hard to describe — I really am doing my best, promise.
As for what’s “happening” in the “story,” it would appear that some human test subject or other is strapped down to a table and being “gifted” with super-powers of some sort by a shadowy group of doctors, and that said subject is both excited and terrified at the prospect, as one probably would be under the circumstances — whatever those circumstances, ya know, are. That’s all we know so far, and even THAT is up for debate. What ISN’T, however, is that this project has already redefined the parameters and possibilities of both genre fiction AND “chapbook”-formatted art.
In fairness, though, it had damn well BETTER break some new ground given the price tag attached to it : after all, each “issue” costs ten bucks. And while there’s no doubt the minute you look at one of these “comic books” that MORE than ten dollars’ worth of labor went into putting the whole thing together, that’s still a lot of money to spend on what is, at the end of the day, a small art object moreso than it is a “book” per se. All that being said, though, the real question here is : leaving aside what went into it, can you possibly get your money’s worth OUT of it?
That all depends, I suppose, on something we’ll call, for lack of a more readily-available term, the “appreciation factor.” If you derive personal satisfaction from immersing yourself within a highly personal and distinctive artistic vision the likes of which you’ll quite literally find NOWHERE else, then the answer is a very enthusiastic “yes.” But if you don’t have the time, inclination, or desire to grapple with this work on anything more than a liminal “surface” level (and absolutely no judgments here if this describes you — we all have our own individual tastes), then I can’t in good conscience recommend you buy these “comics.” They demand that you meet them on their own terms, and the very first of those terms is decoding precisely what the REST of the terms are. Certainties are few and far between here, it’s true, but while A SUPERHERO COMIC BOOK doesn’t fit any preconceived notions of WHAT superhero comic books are, there’s still no real question that it is EXACTLY what it bills itself as being.
I also think it’s reasonable to assume, even at this apparently-early stage, that this work roughly fits into the category of “superhero deconstruction” — something that’s been so done to death that I can easily understand why even reading those words would put somebody off. But it’s not deconstructing the superhero via narrative means alone. Visually, formally, even conceptually, Parsons is splitting the idea apart like Oppenheimer did with the atom. There’s no telling what will emerge from it — perhaps, at least in part, because there’s no telling where we are within the overall framework of the project right now — but it’s sure to be fascinating, regardless of whether or not it’s entirely decipherable.
If your interest in piqued, check out more by going over to http://dominobooks.org/superhero1.html
And if your interest is piqued by the preview content I’ve been presenting this week, please check out more by going over to https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse