Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: THE AUTEUR #1

THE AUTEUR is going to confound a lot of readers. It will no doubt disturb, anger and offend a great many more. The first issue of the new comicbook from Oni Press boasts the kind of non-linear, violent, misanthropic storytelling you'd expect to hear during group therapy at Arkham Asylum, and I loved every panel of it.

A word of warning: The most challenging thing about THE AUTEUR is not its graphic content or twisted sense of humor. Nihilism isn't exactly a commodity that's in short supply, and if that's all that writer Rick Spears, artist James Callahan and colorist Luigi Anderson had to offer, I'd be the first person nailing the book to the wall of my outhouse. While the plot of the first issue might seem a little thin on first inspection, there are genuine ideas on display here. In a world where a GODZILLA reboot is hailed as compelling storytelling, its exciting to find a story that actually has something to say. THE AUTEUR functions both as a satire of the business model necessary to connect art and audience (and the misguided assholes in charge of those decisions) as well as a genuine exploration of the creative process. It's rare that I'll give anything this kind of unqualified blowjob, but reading THE AUTEUR felt vaguely .... miraculous? I mean, how does a book like this get made within an industry that thinks you can revitalize a 50-year-old series by resetting the issue number to #1? WHO ALLOWED THIS TO HAPPEN?

So, what's it all about? THE AUTEUR follows the exploits of Hollywood producer Nathan T. Rex, most of which are internal. Rex wants to make blockbuster, popular movies with "real" emotional content, but is oblivious to how those concepts are diametrically opposed. His fantasies/nightmares look like the unholy offspring of a "Third Eye" blacklight poster and an issue of TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

And that's pretty much that. Except it's not THAT, at all. I was hesitant to try and explain the plot here, because I knew it would go over about as well as that time your brother tried to tell you his favorite George Carlin bit. Sometimes you just have to experience something for yourself.

Luckily, you can read the first issue online for free. I can't promise you're going to connect with the book the way I did, but you have nothing to lose by giving it a try. Especially if you're bored with watching superheroes in shiny underwear punch each other.

It takes a lot of planning and discipline to create a comicbook, and the deadlines associated with script, art and production duties have a tendency to drain the spontaneity from any story. Reading THE AUTEUR almost felt like watching a live performance, and the book always feels like it's on the verge of going off the rails. Spears, Callahan and  Anderson  manage to keep the train on the tracks for the duration of the first issue, and it's going to be interesting to see if they can maintain the book's energy in later issues without devolving into self-parody.

What I'm trying to say is, "Can I have the next issue, please?"

UPDATE: My preferred comic store just informed me they have issues 1, 2 and 3 on the shelf. This is what getting old feels like.

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