Follow Me (Backwards Folding Mirror #3)
Jesse Moynihan, writer/artist
This book’s a tough nut to crack, mostly, I think, because it doesn’t work. There are plenty of familiar altcomix elements present here, from slacker/douchebag observational slice-of-life humor, to gross-out gags and dick jokes and sex comedy, to little fantasy creatures having incongruously realistic and vulgar misadventures, to stream-of-consciousness psychedelic transformations and explorations. All that stuff has been done a million times, and in variations of Moynihan’s knowingly ramshackle black-and-white line to boot–you’ll detect echoes of Matt Furie, Mat Brinkman, Brian Chippendale, Lisa Hanawalt, Alison Cole, Theo Ellsworth, and probably a lot more besides. That said, Follow Me doesn’t feel derivative to me, thanks to Moynihan’s strong, winningly lo-fi character designs and “acting.” His main character, a little dude in a gnome hat, is a pleasure to watch as he’s haplessly buffeted by his own venal impulses and his world’s unpredictable metaphysical freak-outs; he gives Moynihan an opportunity for several standout moments, from his convincingly bewildered look as he gets sucked through a vortex to a goofy little dance he does in which his long shadow effortlessly creates a sense of harsh, bright lighting, a very cool effect.
And yet never does this self-evidently very personal vision burst through the “bubble” of its author’s headspace and communicate its vision of the world to me. I’m sure you don’t need to hear me repeat how much I enjoy comics whose impact is primarily emotional rather than logical, but in such cases I can at least make emotional sense out of what I’m reading due to visual continuity and a tonal through-line, or conversely a tonal juxtaposition,. Here I can do no such thing. Follow Me‘s elements sit awkwardly and uncommunicatively together. I have no idea what the “I can suck my own dick” gags and poop jokes have to do with extended visual riffs on death and multiple planes of existence. And rather than telling an emotional story, the too-frequent, too-abrupt transitions and extended visual extravaganzas just feel like a repeated “and then, and then, and then, and then, and then…” It feels less like daring and more like formlessness. Meanwhile there’s one out-of-nowhere chapter that’s as ill-advised a meditation on race as I’ve seen since David Heatley’s My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down. Much more so than most of the comics that bear the name, this feels like a diary comic, meaning it’s of value primarily to its maker. Which is fine, but caveat lector.