By LJ Douresseau
December 1, 2004 - 15:20
After nearly two and half-years, Fantagraphics Books finally brings us another issue of Daniel Clowes' fabulous comic book series, EIGHTBALL. Is this issue, #23, worth the wait? Well, it might not seem so at first glance.
Although the comic's format, a 44-page tabloid-sized magazine with the lead character drawn against a solid black ground, is visually arresting, the story, "The Death Ray" is slow to develop. However, by the time, I reached the end, I was amazed at how this issue's story could be so deceptively poignant and so numbingly mundane.
Set mostly in the 70's, "The Death Ray" centers on Andy, an orphaned boy living with his grandfather. As is the life of a geek, Andy is mostly lonely except for his self-centered and disingenuous friend, Louie. Eventually, Andy is granted mysterious powers and inherits a ray gun, both of which irrevocable change his life, although exactly how is a bit ambiguous. Clowes gives the reader just enough of Andy to realize that he was more likely than not going to end up where he is, regardless of the special powers.
Dan Clowes has a knack for getting under the skin of his readers, and he creates enough fictional skin for his characters, enough to allow him to get under it and annoy them. The peculiar and vaguely disquieting (or annoying) nature of his dramas is probably what drives so many people to distraction about his work.
More than any other cartoonist, comic book artist, or creator, Dan Clowes' storytelling personifies the uncertainty of life, and in that he is timeless. Clowes' characters are sadly all too human and sometimes too dull. Comics with rare exceptions are not about humanity and are often filled with hyper action, as if the creators could never realize the potential for drama in the mundane. A