Skyscrapers of the Midwest #4
AdHouse Books, October 2007
Joshua W. Cotter, writer/artist
The fourth and final issue of Josh Cotter’s stunningly self-assured debut comic is kind of like the thesis statement of the series. The rich fantasy lives of the two little brothers, shaped almost completely by the kind of throwaway genre entertainment of the ’80s that proved almost despite itself to be richly resonant with we America’s nerds and losers, virtually replace their emotions rather than be shaped by them. The younger brother’s innocently violent He-Man drama of loss and recovery, the older brother’s violently sexualized late-Marvel drama of emasculation–both larger-than-life sequences all but spill out of their pages and overwhelm the usually staid visuals of the book. In this way they’re like the mystical flood that sweeps away the boys’ grandmother in the mysterious shared vision that gives the series its title. The choice offered to the older brother in this sequence, itself the apotheosis of the mystical realist epiphanies whose singular iconography has given the series much of its power, is to keep a part of himself locked away behind the helmet of his damned superhero idol or face life without that iron mask. As you might know if you’re reading this blog, this comic like all comics is part of an industry where major players profit quite directly from lingering emotional scars and not always in the most scrupulous of ways, so the theme hit me square in the gut. Skyscrapers #4 is both uncondescending and uncompromising in its depiction of how fantasy can be both pleasure and prison. It’s a hard and beautiful book, and aside from a slight misstep involving a too easily provoked and resolved fight between the brothers at the book’s end, which is the kind of thing I’m very forgiving about, it’s a fantastic book too.