Wednesday, July 10, 2013

 Pantheon, 2011

        Mr. Clowes is famous.  And like any heavyweight, there are hungrier, younger competitors trying to say he's getting soft, like an old man who should bow out of the ring.  "Mister Wonderful," a 76 page short story following suit with the previous year's "Wilson," stars a tired, alienated Charlie Brown / Woody Allen hybrid, complaining about the state of the world and his lackluster sex life.

           The classic yet streamlined style of Clowes straddles antiseptic symbology and childish daydream, a pragmatic articulation that is gently persuasive.   
           Our protagonist unintentionally bungles his way through a blind date with the unbelievable serendipity of Batman solving another disposable case.  He socks a purse snatcher, skirts teeth clenching romantic faux pas at every instant, somehow managing not to offend the blonde, mousey object of his affection who shares a cup of coffee with him, fragile, alluringly damaged-by-modernity.

          Often the steady draftsmanship seems to keep the characters and subject matter intact much like a carton of eggs on a very long highway of hairpin turns.  Just beneath the surface lives the anxiety and vivid dreams that made Dan Clowes such a monolith of the 90's alternative comics scene.

          There is a simplification in his style which appeared in his past few releases, where some may have come to the conclusion that he is running out of steam.  With less detail, less impactful subject matter, and shorter, serialized plots, this may be true.  He has, however, managed to age and exit with tact.  Wilson and Mister Wonderful are solid, well written stories that left me feeling satisfied, wishing he hadn't abandoned his epic follow-up to David Boring a few years ago.

          To his many detractors, calling him bland, irrelevant, preachy, infatuated with baby-boomer schlock, I ask:  What will Johnny Ryan be doing when he turns 52?


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