Only Skin: Tales of the Slow Apocalypse #1-3, by Sean Ford, self-published, $5 each.
Only Skin is a Twin Peaks-ish style mystery set in a remote, almost desolate town. A number of mysterious and potentially gruesome disappearances have been occurring there, with naught left behind except for a few bloody fingers.
The story mainly focuses on the actions of a few distinct townspeople: Paul, a schlubby everyman; Cassie, who’s come to take over the local gas station after her father has vanished; and Cassie’s younger brother Clay, who may or may not be haunted by his dad’s ghost, who in turn bears a striking resemblance to Inky of Pac-Man fame.
There’s a lot to like here, such as the way the artist, a recent CCS graduate, uses sparse backgrounds to create a haunting sense of place, or the ghost’s method of trying to manipulate Clay in childish, awkward ways. Ford’s representational skills may falter at times, but his characters are well defined and intriguing, though if I had to pick nits I’d say they seem a bit too passive at times — more willing to allow events to happen to them rather than the other way around.
Ford’s pacing is slow and deliberate, all the better to keep things as enigmatic and creepy as possible no doubt. That’s a ploy that could easily work against him as the series progresses — at some point revelations are going to have to be offered up. For now though, my curiosity has been raised enough to see where Ford takes his motley crew.
(Note: You can read an nice interview with Ford by Steve Bissette here.)
Take Our Cat, Please: A Get Fuzzy Collection by Darby Conley, Andrews McMeel, $10.99
Get Fuzzy is basically Garfield with a frat boy attitude.
Think about it. The cat is surly and impulsive and makes everyone’s life a living hell. The dog is a lovable, clueless doofus. And the owner is a sad sack bachelor who can’t get a date and whose life revolves entirely around his pets. The only difference is that in Get Fuzzy everyone says “Dude” a lot.
Well, OK, that’s not the only difference. Get Fuzzy is, unlike Garfield, can often be genuinely funny. Conley is frequently very witty, enough so that you’re not terribly surprised the strip has been as successful in daily newspapers as it has been. I appreciate that he uses the characters’ behavior as a source for comedy rather than having things fall on top of them slapstick style,
Conley is also a much better artist than Jim Davis, though he seems to rely on the same stock characters poses again and again in his strip, which leads me to speculate that either a) he’s really lazy; b) his deadlines are a bitch; or c) he’s not a capable enough cartoonist to vary his characters emotional expressions enough.
Because he draws in a slightly more realistic — if still affected — style, however, I find myself, rather than chuckling over the cat’s antics, really annoyed at his behavior to the point where I wonder why Rob the owner doesn’t just leave him at the nearest animal shelter and be done with it. I mean, he gets away with behavior that no pet owner in their right mind would tolerate, and because he acts more like a roommate than an actual pet, he’s all the more irksome and disturbing.
Honestly though, I think the real problem with Get Fuzzy is that it has such a limited cast of characters, none of whom can really ever develop beyond the limited guidelines that Conley has drawn for them. Right now it’s working for him really well, but unless he gives his cast someone else to rub up against, I fear it’s going to become stilted really quickly.