Wednesday, August 25, 2004


I've got a review of David Lasky and Jesse Reklaw's minicomic Lo-Horse #2 up over at the Poopsheet - check it out. You do check the other new reviews posted daily on the sidebar, right? Right?

Oni Love Can Break Your Heart - Part II

Ojo #1

I have always had a soft spot for Sam Keith. His work has always been appealingly quirky enough to get my attention, even when the stories he was working on were less than amazing. When he was absent from comics there for a few years following the conclusion of The Maxx, I definitely missed him.

But in the last couple of years he’s returned with a vengeance. He’s produced two Zero Girl miniseries for DC/Wilstorm, as well as another unrelated miniseires entitled Four Women. Those with good memories might recall that I wrote a fairly negative review of Four Women for the Journal following the series’ conclusion. I felt that story was weak because Keith was attempting a formalistically strenuous suspense narrative that just didn’t work with his characteristically schizophrenic art. You need to be a strong and cogent storyteller in order to muster the suspension of disbelief necessary for suspense, and I felt that this type of story was ill-suited to Keith’s talents.

He’s currently doing some sort of Batman/werewolf series for DC, in addition to Ojo, a new series launching from Oni today. I haven’t read the werewolf thing, because as much as I like Keith’s art I think that werewolves are the most boring monsters imaginable. I think zombies have more depth than a fucking werewolf. Zombies don’t even speak . . . or run, or even do anything besides shamble around the countryside and eat people. Sometimes they take orders from a voodoo priest, sometimes they are victims of biological warfare experiments. Whatever. I just hate werewolves. I sat through that God-awful American Werewolf in Paris thing because my friends dragged me to see it and I swear that was one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.

Where was I? Oh yeah.

Ojo is much better than Four Women and shows the potential to even surpass Zero Girl. Keith is back on familiar territory, with very small and intimate character portraits jutting up against the bare outlines of the unknown. The concept of death is very important here, and those of us with memories long enough to remember why Keith left The Sandman will be interested to see the dichotomy between Keith’s conception of death and the rest of the comics world is still intact. There’s nothing romantic about death in Ojo death is scary and icky and mysterious. The protagonist, a little girl named Annie, is surrounded by guilt and frozen by a fear of death following the accidental deaths of her pet lizard and her pet mouse. During the course of this first issue, she finds a new pet, who is not quite normal . . .

Keith is a master at forming believably layered character types. Every supernatural element in his stories is balanced by a character element that serves to ground the proceedings in a very convincing melange of metaphor and symbolism. Annie is obsessed with death, but her experiences with her pets are just a way for her to inwardly process the fact that her real life is very unhappy.

Keith has always been fascinated by the boundaries between inner life and outer reality. Just as The Maxx was ultimately a psychodrama about externalized trauma (or, at least, I think that’s what it was about), it looks like Ojo is going to be less about a giant sewer monster than the emotional unpleasantness in Annie’s home life.

I am guardedly optimistic about this series based on the evidence of the first issue. Keith is a solid talent who is capable of spectacular formalistic leaps when he wants to stretch his chops. His stories, while usually more modest in scope than his art, are usually no less satisfying. This series looks like it could be another solid piece of work from one of our most underrated craftsmen.

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