Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Monkey's Name is Jennifer (2003)

In the early '90s, Evan Dorkin turned a wedge of cheese and a carton of milk who became anthropomorphic sociopathic pop culture critics into such a hit (by post-B&W boom standards,) that it put tiny publisher Slave Labor Graphics on the map. Years later, Jhonen Vasquez created a series about a homicidal maniac that went over with the goth kids at Hot Topic by actually being sold there, and surely helped SLG land some Disney licenses.

Taking these two things into account, it makes sense that Slave Labor publisher Dan Vado would take a good long look at a book about a little girl with a pet ape that she dresses in doll clothes, and which is filled with murderous rage at the world around it. The girl has surreal misadventures, and the monkey thinks about biting peoples' testicles off. There's also random quirky shit like skeletons wearing suits and pirates and mad scientists attempting to weaponize childhood glee. Also, toss in full color back cover pin-ups by comic book luminaries, which helped Madman make Kitchen Sink Press some dough, and you might have something.

I'm certain the process wasn't as cynical as I make it sound, but the end result is still an unfunny, repetitive book with surface similarities to very successful predecessors without the insight or talent to deliver on a deeper level than pale imitation. The stories seem geared toward children, but a bit too nonlinear and heavy in coarse elements to play to the younger crowd. Adults might appreciate their matter-of-fact weirdness, but be frustrated by how arbitrary and familiar the diversions are, as well as the basic lack of craft on display. The book just doesn't look or read particularly well, and is too soft or too hard for any given readership. I didn't feel a strong compulsion to finish the thing beyond grist for the review mill, but the final pages switch format to 1-2 page stories that prove much more charming and palatable.

Ken Knudsten does seem to really believe in what he's doing, and he has his fans, so perhaps instead of taking my word for it, you'll check out his blog for lots of free pages.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This amusing opinion|


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