Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Can't Get No - Rick Veitch

This review was originally published at Read it in full here.

Can't Get No
By Rick Veitch
(Swamp Thing, 1963, Abraxas And The Earthman)

As an artist and writer, Rick Veitch has paid his dues in the world of comics. While probably best known for his work on Swamp Thing (first as an artist with writer Alan Moore, then taking on full duties with his own acclaimed run) and Heavy Metal magazine, as well as other Moore collaborations, including 1963 and co-creating ABC Comics' Greyshirt character, he has in recent years built up an impressive library of graphic novels, including The One, Brat Pack, and Abraxas And The Earthman.

The most recent addition and one worthy of inclusion on your bookshelf – if you're up for a challenging read, that is – is his latest work, Can't Get No. Billed by some as a post 9-11 work, it's far more than that.

Chad Roe, a businessman who is down on his luck, gets terribly plastered one evening and against his will is tattooed from head to toe by two women. This sends his life into a downward spiral, a spiral accelerated when he is witness to the attacks of September 11, 2001. What follows is a journey of introspection and self-discovery.

First and foremost, and the hardest thing to avoid when talking about Can’t Get No, is the presentation. Not as much the sizing of the pages – it is presented in a “widescreen” 7.25” x 5.75” format, which made for some attractive layouts - but rather the mix of image-driven storytelling overlaid with a twisting, druggy poem of epic length. The images crispy, clearly and dynamically tell a story, while the text is a book length, sometimes pretentious poem that ostensibly has nothing to do with the narrative, yet more often than not intertwines with and comments on that narrative. I really enjoyed this device. While from time to time the two would drift a bit too far apart, when they two came together they really impacted one another in a big way, the verse adding weight and heft to the story, and vice versa. When we see the markers that will disrupt Roe's life in several ways, and the text speaks of a “suffocating self-embrace,” the two separate works become one. Very effective technique. It moves along at such a smooth and rapid clip that the moments when the text gets jarring or clunky or pretentious (and there are a few, most especially the latter) are put behind you swiftly. Far from being a gimmick, it’s truly an essential part of the experience.


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