NEW COMIC BY SAMMY HARKHAM reviewed on Consumatron

March 13, 2006

I'm not the avid comic book reader I used to be. I have my favorites, but instead of single issues, I tend to wait for graphic novels and other collections before checking a new title out. I do this for the same reason I watch most television shows only after they come out on DVD: I don't like to impose unnecessary schedules in my life. I already have to get to work on time and get out of bed before that. No way am I going to commit to being home on Thursdays at eight or at the comic shop on Tuesdays. Sammy Harkham may have just ruined this all for me. Fortunately, this new title published by Drawn & Quarterly seems as if it will take its sweet time getting to your local wire racks. Good. There is nothing worse than a regular publication that suffers under its own deadline.

Those of you who pay close attention to the indie comics world will recognize Sammy Harkham as the editor of the comics anthology Kramers Ergot or recognize his drawing style, which borders on simplistic but is better described as essential, from Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase #3 where his story Somersaulting appeared. Folks who do not stay within the loop of the demanding and saturated comics world (like me) will find Harkham's line work familiar but will be hardpressed to recall where they have encountered it before.

Despite the irreverent sense of humor gleaned from the inside front cover of Crickets #1, the single story in this issue, Black Death, introduces a reflective and mysterious writer who may be trying to learn something himself while spinning a tale for his audience. Black Death begins as a reinterpretation of the Jewish myth of the Golem. A recently slaughtered man with several wooden arrows protruding from his body is resurrected by just such a creature. With an apparant guilt hanging over his head, the man is eager to continue on his way only to find that close proximity to the Golem is the only thing keeping him from death. With his unlikely savior in tow and a midnight hunger, the man comes across a father and son in the dark woods who are on their way to bury the boy's brother. Fear and hurried greed result in a disastrous violence that, once again, leaves the man and his Golem alone to wander the land in search of a town called Liadi. A panel of blackness and death ends the comic and readers are left with questions that will be illuminated (though maybe not answered) in the next issue.

With very little dialogue, Crickets #1 is a meditative dream-like comic that leaves the reader eager to discover the characters' motives and the reasons for the rain of arrows that left him in his assisted undead state. The illustrations are all tinted with a greyish green that furthers the story's cold mystery, though I would have liked to have seen more of the beautiful splotchy color featured on the front and back covers. Harkham's character development progresses at a steady pace, giving the reader just enough information to keep them wondering. His storytelling, much like his artwork, is eerily familiar and essential. Harkham avoids minimalist masturbation in his comics and though he has a penchant for violence, it is not of the mindless superhero sort and usually serves the flow of the narrative.

Now if I could just find my calendar to add yet another schedule to my life. Of course, if the quality of Harkham's storytelling is all this good, this is one intermittant schedule I will hapily accept.

Rating: 4 / 5

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