Reviews # 70-71

Review #70 (4/04/07)

Title: No Hope #4

What is it? : Cartoon zine with the subtitle "Crude, offensive, puerile, unfunny, unoriginal, piece of crap."

Technical Quality: Very high. This black and white comic is nicely made. The drawings, all by Jason Dean, are professional level good, with that underground comic look.

Innovative Quality : As it says in the intro, "you can expect the same kind of sick jokes and smutty humor as before." But he does do crude with an innovative flare. Also note, "All rights unreserved. This comic or parts thereof may be reproduced in ANY form you want by ANY means you want with or WITHOUT the permission of Jason Dean or Dead Dog Press."

Review: No Hope is a big cartoon zine (12" by 8") professionally done with 48 pages. It is mostly cartoons by Jason Dean, but this issue also includes a 10 page film article by Nathan Keen on "The Horrific Filmography of Freddy Valentine" a "B" actor and familiar face to drive-in movie buffs. The article summarizes his film career. The best part was the drawings of the film posters that Valentine appeared in such as "The Toes of Lust", and "Plague of the Penguins".

The rest of the zine is 2 large comic stories and assorted one page 'gross outs' on something either coming out of one end or the other. Example - "The Curious Dream of Norman Lovelace" where Norman dreams about an astral ass, or "Nasal Laughs" or his board game page, "The Mr. Penis Game". These were all ok - and all the art work here is top notch - but I was more embarrassed than amused after reading them. And some of the small pieces were disturbingly violent, even for cartoons! Reader bewares. In spite of the cover blurb that states, "Suitable for children of all ages", this is material for adults only.

The 2 large comic stories are very good though, and deserve a closer look. "The Man In a Box", is a fun quirky story about a man living in a cardboard box. It opens and we see eyes and hands. The Man in the Box is suddenly aware of women, "When suddenly without warning I began thinking about... Ladies!" Nothing pans out for Mr. Box until he meets a woman in a box! First rate box romance! I'd like to read more adventures of Mr. Box.

"I Hate Daniel Butler". About how jealous the author is of the most popular kid in school, Daniel Butler." Also note the one pager titled “The Psychotic Third Arm of Lester Lemsip" where his third arm has a mind of its own and constantly gets him into trouble.

All in all, most of this will just gross you out with excessive cartoon penises everywhere. But in the longer stories (and illustration for the film article) you'll find not only a very talented professional comic artist, but a good storyteller too.

Contact Info:
Jason Dean
5 St. Dials Road
Old Cumbran
Gwent NP44 3AN

Overall Grade: 5.0 (With a higher grade for the two larger cartoon pieces if reviewed by them.)

Review # 71 (4/07/07)

Title Security, A Story of Survival

What is it? : A short novel by James Nowlan

Technical Quality: Above average all around. The book is well made and easy to read. The writing technique is smooth and sophisticated.

Innovative Quality: Average. Excluding the dynamic cover art work there is not much that is new here.

Review: The back cover says of the author, Nowlan was a skidrow wino from the age of fourteen. Somehow he ended up living in France...He worked as a security guard in Paris and almost went insane. He'd be okay now but just can't forget that everyone is out to get him.

His novel seems to follow his life. The story is mostly an on-the-road story. It begins and ends with Tom, an American, in Paris. He applies for a security guard job in Paris. Later he goes to LA, then NYC, then back to Paris. In each city he ends up on the lowest rung of society and deals with outcasts, the downtrodden, and low life. He often gets beaten up.

The story reads like a Kafkaesque nightmare where everything is always in a depressing worried flux, nothing is stable, and nobody is to be trusted. Tom tries his best (though he often steals and he drinks way too much) but he is constantly attacked and ridiculed. Nobody can be trusted by Tom.

As a character he is passive, and not very likeable. His appearance is described as "an insane wino with scars on his face and stainless steel front teeth." The only redeemable character in the novel is his girlfriend/wife Isabelle.

A plus in all the depressing action of the novel is his skill in writing smooth intelligent and easy to read prose. Here is a sample that shows both his writing skill and the tone of the novel.:

After getting off the train in the dank underground station and climbing up a series of sabotaged escalators he found himself in the deserted center of a group of blank hundred foot wall like buildings that showed no sign of life except for black fire stains running up their sides, making them look as if they had been attacked by besieging hordes and left pillaged; all the inhabitants carried away or massacred. Feeling small and vulnerable he looked around the square for the bank that he was supposed to be guarding. The few attempts to cheer up the landscape, a fountain and a children's playground, had been so savagely vandalized it looked as if a tornado had passed.

There are also some notable scenes throughout. Some that most interested me include: 1. Tom in the LA used clothing store trying to buy a leather jacket. 2. Tom abandoned in a quarreling couples' New York City loft. 3. Tom and Isabelle being filmed on their trip across the US.

The novel is an unrelenting nightmare and excluding Isabelle nothing good happens. This and the fact that Tom never changes or grows were aspects of the novel that frustrated me. I found an endlessly depressing read. Overall it’s a well written nightmare in the Kafka tradition where bad turns to worse. What Nowlan says, he says well, but other than the tragedy of a man on a downward spiral in an evil world, he doesn’t seem to have much to say.

Contact Info:

Overall Grade: 5.0 Grading system: 9-10 Highest grade - Life's work of a master (ex. Collected plays of Shakespeare, collected symphonies of Beethoven) 8-9 Single best work of a celebrated master's career. 7-8. Best work of an era or genre or decade. 6-7 Best work of the year. 5-6 Very good. 4-5 More good than bad. 3-4 Average amount of good = amount of bad. 2-3 Mostly bad with some redeeming parts. 1-2 Nothing redeemable. 0-1 So bad it is offensively bad and outrages the reviewere for taking up that time in his life - just awful.

Musea guarantees a review for all art work in any conceivable field IF you follow the rules posted on our website or e-mail me. Tom Hendricks

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