Comics Time: I Want You #2

I Want You #2
Lisa Hanwalt, writer/artist
Pigeon Press, October 2010
44 pages
Hopefully you can buy it from Pigeon Press someday
Buy it from Lisa Hanawalt today

The centerpiece strip in this issue of Lisa Hanawalt’s old-school Alternative Comic Book series has an ending that’s just killer, and here’s why. Because she’s mostly a humor cartoonist, combining obsessive-compulsively detailed drawings of animals with human bodies and gross-out gags about bodily fluids and functions and injuries, you think this story’s gonna be funny, or at least is supposed to be funny. But the pacing hasn’t been that of a gag strip, not at all, and while the central image might make you giggle, it’s more involuntary nervousness that does the trick than actual ha-ha kneeslapperishness — it’s one of the many cases where something she draws is so gross it’s hard to to find it funny at all. So you come to the penultimate page of the strip, and the main character is ready to make his complaint about what had already happened to him, but then he suddenly trails off, shocked by what he sees, and with the turn of a page we see it too. And blam! it’s horrifying, it’s over the top, it’s horrifyingly over-the-top, and it’s funny for how horrifying and over the top it is, and for how perfectly it meshes the pacing of a punchline panel with that of a shock ending. It’s like a Tim and Eric take on the final shot of a Twilight Zone episode. And it arises 100% from Hanwalt’s unique artistic obsessions: detail, prolixity, anthropomorphism, clothing, tiny awful things, hats, modes of transportation, body horror, birds. It couldn’t be done by anyone else. The same can’t be said for everything in this issue–there’s a lot of material done with a brush that can’t match the intensity or specificity of her finer ink style, even when it happens to be really funny. (The yoga-class strip’s the best of that bunch, hands down.) But when you’re capable of doing things that only you can do, well, you’re doing something right, that’s for sure.

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