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Robbins, John – Negotiating the Beast


Negotiating the Beast (“with” Sean Mac Roibin)

This comic was a welcome reminder to me that “a series of one page strips” can mean a number of things. In some comics, it’s a collection of gags, some funny bits thrown together and read in a few minutes. At other times it can have a bit more depth but, after all, how much can you pack into a story that only lasts one page? And then, on very rare occasions, it’s more like reading a book of short stories than anything else. This collection of pieces, written by Sean Mac Roibin (which involves a complicated bit of mythology that I maybe shouldn’t get into) is the first thing I’ve seen in years that reminds my strongly of the old Alec strips by Eddie Campbell, and it manages to pull that off without significant recurring characters. It starts off with a text piece dealing with the sad fate of Sean Mac Roibin and lets us know that all of these pieces were drawn based on stories left behind by the man. After that, I don’t know how I can do this book justice without writing a novel in lieu of a review, but I’ll try to hit some of the many high points. There’s a piece about letting go of your mother on the first day of school (while still letting the children believe that their mothers were just around the corner), wondering what would have happened if a young boy had gotten into that stranger’s car when he was younger, learning the fine art of fingering from your grade school friends, slowly starving yourself to death, worrying so much that life is a constant, horrific struggle, yielding to a macabre temptation while waiting for the bus, reliving emotions best left behind after learning that a sister is going to look up her sister’s old boyfriend, living life intentionally in a sick bed, and being stuck with only a guilty, horrible memory of a dead sister. This briefly covers about a third of the stories in here, each one being of such length and complexity that I feel like I’m cheating them by describing them so shortly. The art also varies perfectly for each story, sometimes being full of shadows and solid blacks and sometimes seeming more like a light, wacky sketch. It’s a tremendous piece of work, something I really can’t recommend highly enough. I don’t know from euros and pounds (sorry), but clicking on that link above will take you to site where you can buy this and a number of other international books (John is in Ireland). At a guess I’d say roughly $2…