Or Else #3
By Kevin Huizenga
Published by Drawn and Quarterly; $3.50 USD
In the space of three issues, Or Else has become essential reading, and one of the most exciting and entertaining comics being published. In a world where we only get a new Eightball or Acme Novelty Library once every year or two, it's nice that a creator quickly proving he is as engaging, inventive and unpredictable as Dan Clowes or Chris Ware is regularly publishing. The implicit praise in the early notes that this title is the first regular series D&Q has launched since Optic Nerve has borne fruit: Or Else is the real thing.
There's a ton of stuff going on before you even crack this open. There's an amusing turn of phrase on the cover that brought a slight grin, only to return as full-fledged revelation once I read one of the stories within. If you're like me, you often check out the back cover before plunging into the book proper; the back cover is a blurry photograph. "Ah, Kevin's being arty." Well, sure, that too, but once you read the book, if you're like me, a second glance at the back cover will be enough to bring a tear to your eye.
Huizenga is an artist deeply in touch with his own emotions, and masterful at putting them on the page to share with his readers. The four page "March 6, 1999" near the front of the book holds enough genuine humanity and insight to make you thankful for the book's existence and Huizenga's gifts. But he's just getting started. "Al and Gertrude" is the highlight in an issue full of home runs: Huizenga recounts moving next door to an elderly couple. To say any more would spoil the tale for you. I promise, though, that it's one of the most moving stories you'll read, full of compassionate observation, and with a final panel that will have you reflecting on your own life and its likely path long, long after you close the cover. And when you close the cover, you'll see that back cover again, and you'll understand even more about why Huizenga created the story, and the experiences, curiousity and innate decency that inform his talents as a cartoonist.
"Fashionably Zen," is the other lengthy piece of the issue, and if it's a bit lighter in emotional tone than "Al and Gertrude," it is no less accomplished for its sense of verisimilitude. Huizenga is a guy who thinks about things, apparently all the time, as a good observational cartoonist must. "Zen," sees him thinking something very nearly to death, only to find, as we often do in real life, that he's not as crazy or alone as he thinks he is. You'll like the story, and then, if you're like me, you'll once again laugh in amazement when you see how it ties in to something seemingly unconnected elsewhere this issue.
What else can I say? This issue, as with the previous issues, absolutely blew me away: Huizenga grows with every passing story, sharing more of his talent and more of his thoughts and insights into his life and the world around him. We're profoundly lucky to have him working in comics, and to let Or Else slip past you unnoticed would be one of the great tragedies of your life, if you're like me -- someone who loves good comics. Grade: 5/5
KEVIN H'S OR ELSE #3 reviewed by Comic Book Galaxy
Or Else #3