I Um Back

*Another fine Thanksgiving for the books. It was tough herding all those turkeys into my family's waiting mouths, but few efforts are matched with such reward. How about a quick review?

Alex Robinson's Lower Regions

I'm actually in the middle of answering an email right now, and lo and behold, one of the questions therein is what I think of the comics of Alex Robinson. It's gonna be a disappointing response on that front (which is to say, even more disappointing than my responses usually are), since Robinson is one of those artists who've managed to slip right between the cracks of my reading. He's like Howard Cruse or Mark Kalesniko in that way - I just haven't quite gotten around to all of them.

So this little book, a 56-page, mostly wordless b&w production of Top Shelf (priced at $6.95), gets to be my first sustained exposure to Robinson's work. I suspect many readers will take it as a lark, a funny side-project in anticipation of Robinson's next 'big' book, 2008's Too Cool to Be Forgotten; it's cute and slapsticky, and very fast. It looks like this. I don't think I could mount much of a case against that notion.

But it's worth noting that the presence of action-fantasy genre stuff isn't what marks the book as so minor; in the last few years, artists as varied as Kazimir Strzepek (The Mourning Star), Brian Chippendale (Ninja) and Chris Forgues (Powr Mastrs) have all released differing works redolent with fantasy adventure tropes, all of which take different approaches toward building up their worlds and telling their stories. Alex Robinson's Lower Regions, as the title might suggest, functions mostly as an extended gag, albeit an affectionate one towards simple sword-swinging, dungeon-crawling tropes, with monster housecats and armored orcs alike getting sliced and diced in gory fashion by a pretty girl with a big axe.

It's a very boyish book, loaded with goopy violence, cheesy sensuality and what strikes me as a playful eagerness to push buttons - Robinson can't quite resist getting his warrior babe into a wet kiss with some sort of devilish succubus, which then grows increasingly aroused as Our Heroine stabs it over and over with a knife, until a wave of lil' critters erupts climactically from her bloody chest cavity. And when in doubt: impale a wicked little kid on a jagged pike! Of course, Robinson's visual style is too dabbed with cartoon flourish for anything really icky to register; the reader can rest assured from page #1 that corny ol' true love wins the day in the end.

As I mentioned, it's pretty cute, and Robinson's art is well-suited to the task - he even tosses in a few instances of formal play, like a nasty thing casting a spell that drifts out above his head as the heroine charges him, stretching across the gutter into the next panel to melt her weapon before she can 'reach' him, in-comic. A little more of that might have had the book sticking in my mind a lot longer. As it is, it's workable enough disposable entertainment, if also forgettable to the extent that I feel I ought to read something else entirely before I can really say I've read Alex Robinson.