By Leroy Douresseaux
May 2, 2007 - 11:41
Mr. Charlie #117 found a peculiar comic that gives familiar thrills:
In an interview with Stefan Blitz at Blitz’s Forces of Good blog, graphic artist/comic book creator David Yurkovich lists a host of 1970’s and 80’s comic book writers and artists as influences on his work. A few pages into his new collection, Death by Chocolate: Redux, I knew that he wasn’t lying. Judging from the intricacy and ingenuity on display in this book, Yurkovich hasn’t copied so much as he has created an inventive body of work in the spirit of such comics as Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Marvelman, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, Frank Miller’s Give Me Liberty, and Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg!
Death by Chocolate: Redux collects select comics that Yurkovich self-published from 1996 to 2004. Yurkovich published Death by Chocolate in 1996 as a 32-page black and white comic, with the help of a Xeric Foundation grant. In addition to the original DBC comic book, DBC: Redux collects two other comics, The Metabolators and Sir Geoffrey and the Chocolate Car. There are two short stories, “Eternity Pasta” (which appeared in the anthology, Murder by Crowquill), and “Frozen Reflections,” which Yurkovich created specifically for this collection.
The Death by Chocolate stories focus on Agent Swete, who was a normal human until an accident turned his flesh into organic chocolate, as told in the original Death by Chocolate comic book, which comprises Chapter 1 of DBC: Redux. This origin story is a distillation of the early work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel, wherein normal humans sometimes became super powered humans or creatures because of an accident. Swete’s rampage in the wake of his transformation may even remind some of Kirby monster comics. What this chocolate most tastes like is Marvel comics of the 70’s and 80’s that featured rewriting and re-imagining of Lee and Kirby’s original 1960’s work. That includes John Byrne on Fantastic Four, Frank Miller on Daredevil, Walter Simonson on Thor and the work of such writers as Steve Gerber, Roy Thomas, and Marv Wolfman. In this origin story, Swete also meets his partner, Agent Anderson.
The Metabolators is sort of a side story which deals with the aftermath of one of Swete’s rampages. He froze his hometown – every blade of grass, every edifice, every insect, and every man, woman, and child into chocolate. The Metabolators are a trio of monsters who are going to use their special talents to get rid of the scene of the crime. I think readers will find this creepy, poignant, and ultimately chilling tale a delightful chocolate drink made of two pungent but desirable ingredients – Alan Moore and H.P. Lovecraft.
Of the two short stories, “Eternity Pasta” is the best. Yurkovich takes a mob/FBI story and dips it into his unique fondue of superhero/sci-fi/fantasy. He sprinkles the weirdness of Grant Morrison on top (think Doom Patrol).
The story that epitomizes Yurkovich’s oeuvre is Sir Geoffrey and the Chocolate Car. Here, his consumption of our culture – both high and low comes out in a stew of packed with ingredients from imaginative fiction. From the canon of American literature to the weird storytelling of science fantasy and from the heart of speculative science fiction to the hoary halls of pulp fiction, this tale is packed with influences. In this tale, an intelligent, talking dog from an alternative universe wants Ernest Hemingway to teach him how to write, while Swete and Anderson race and chase through the twisting and circular paths of time to save this Sir Geoffrey the canine: could you want more?
I found this to be a most delightful read, not because it reminded me of so many comics of which I am familiar, but because David Yurkovich captured the spirit of what made those comics so fun, so engaging, and so memorable without copying or ripping them off. He tells rich, detailed narratives without decompressing and stretching the narrative. This 120-page book reads as if it held two full-blown epics, one mini-epic and one full episode. There are readers out there who are searching from something different in their superhero comics. They read Hellboy and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, and they probably like The Surrogates (also from Top Shelf). Well, this is for them.
Death by Chocolate: Redux will be available at your local comic book shop (June 2007) or it can be purchased directly from the publisher at topshelfcomix.com.
I write movie reviews at http://www.negromancer.com