Jim Rugg, writer/artist
self-published, April 2010
George W. Bush is a dimwit. There, I just saved you a couple of bucks. Ah, I’m being way too harsh, there–Jim Rugg is a true illustrative talent, and in this minicomic pastiche of the Rambo movies and satire of the Bush Administration and post-9/11 America generally he slips and slides between various alternative-comics styles, from slick and cartoony to editorial-page-y to an almost Frank Santoroish shot of John Rambo viewing Ground Zero, with vigor and ease. The problem is that it’s in service of not much at all, particularly when compared with the surprisingly fecund material in Rugg’s similarly minded mash-up of pop-cult-trash and politics, Afrodisiac. Bush is here presented in a way you’ve seen him a million times before, a moronic, sneering fratboy manchild-of-privilege who’s both bloodthirsty and personally cowardly, and it’s not really any funnier here than it was in all the altweekly political cartoons you remember. Similarly, the portrayal of Rambo is solidly aligned with the Reagan-jingoist interpretation that jibes most closely with the second and third installments of his series, and with the very basic Bush-bashing the comic’s interested in. The complicating weirdness of the first and fourth films–in which Rambo is a victim of American adventurism rather than an exponent of it (the former) and a spiritually crippled killing machine and avatar of Conradian horror (the latter)–is ignored altogether. The comic’s the poorer for this, since I think the country’s blind stumbling rage, which if anything seems worse now than it did then, makes a far more compelling subject for exploration than the easy-target “America, Fuck Yeah”itude found in the umpteenth hyuk-hyuk Bush joke. Here’s hoping Josh Simmons makes Rambo 4.5.