Newsarama reviews My Dirty Dumb Eyes

“My Dirty Dumb Eyes Review” / Newsarama / Zack Kotzer / May 15, 2013

‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If you were wondering if Lisa Hanawalt likes animals, My Dirty Dumb Eyes is a strong argument towards: yes Lisa Hanawalt probably likes animals a lot. Her illustrated review for War Horse regales her efforts to drag her boyfriend’s family to the equine epic. There are two separate chapters about animals in hats. The book is infested with a barnyard of anthropomorphic buddies, warm blooded and cold. She even drew me a goofy horse when I just asked her to sign the book.

Hanawalt also enjoys making lists, which are very popular these days too, but if I had my say every list would be made by her. My Dirty Dumb Eyes is a book with devices that sync well with modern readership habits, without being as banal or annoying as Urban Outfitters' register-side library or BuzzFeed’s daily laziness.

I get the feeling Hanawalt is just going to draw what she feels like, and while one segment deals with artistic struggle, you can detect a comfort in what executing she likes. And she likes drawing animals, visual lists, visual lists about animals, notes about film, notes about films about animals, and sometimes, comics, which are consistently absurd but also jarringly earnest. I wouldn’t mind at all if she kept doing that, all of that, because I think it’s all really excellent.

Hanawalt’s first published anthology isn’t a personal journal as much as a whimsical idea catalogue. You can pretty much track her roaming interests, which drift from the absurd details of intimacy and relationships to automotive accidents to what I’m going to guess are evenings in with the Food Network. I can’t say with utmost certainty, but I think just under half of the book is reprinted web material, though having her visual film essays and fear and loathing at a toy fair from The Hairpin on your bookshelf is by no means a sin.

The collected classics are as funny on paper as they were online, but the new material is the most interesting, vantages of a more personal side we haven’t had much of a glimpse into. A lot of the new material is about casual anxiety. A lot of the new material is about sex. One of the larger chapters is about a young moose hanging around the apartment, frustrated with her developing sculpture series. As much as these moments can strike sore parts of your human heart, Hanawalt is a masterful humorist, and she can cozy familiar woes with big smiling fun seamlessly.

Another reason Hanawalt’s animal obsession is so easy to watch is she’s also amazing at drawing them. Her art is consistently good throughout, but it’s still fascinating how many variants within there is, from the bleeding painted, rough handed to utmost primp and intricately designed. Her anthropomorphic anthropology is reminiscent of Matt Furies’ stoned antics, but with the facetiousness trimmed out. Underneath the Hanawalt’s blanketing animal farm goofiness is strong sentimentality for humans.

"I’m a sucker for ugly animals in costumes," she says, referring to outfitted spiders figurines spotted at a toy show. You don’t say, Lisa. Her animals are often drawn in vivid detail; human faces are comically fleshed out, wide-eyed and MAD Magazine standard.

Actually, now that I think about it, "grown up MAD Magazine" is a good description for this book. It’s full of left field cinema goofs and likely the epitome of body humor, the highest class of fart jokes. And like a MAD Magazine, the jokes are stuffed into this turkey. No Aragones border-fillers, but a parade of jokes, with floats and clowns and streamers and everything. When it breaks, it breaks for lush animal tableaus or off-kilter Jurassic Park fan art.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes may not be a cohesive package, its mind scattered all over and its with its arms stretched out. But My Dirty Dumb Eyes is funny — oh my God, is it funny. Oh my God is Lisa Hanawalt good at this thing she does. Whatever this thing is.

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