Optic Nerve 8
review by Mike Baron

Written and drawn by Adrian Tomine
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly, Price: 3.50

This was staring at me at the local comic shop so I bought it. Wasn't until I got home I realized it was copyright 2001. Doesn't matter. Tomine's tale of high school hopelessness has the stink of truth. The story "Bomb Scare" is about Scotty, a typically lonely, introverted, insecure kid whose best friend Alex is also a little weird. Since the two guys are shy about girls, they hang with each other. Naturally, the jocks et all taunt them as homos. That's the way it is. If Tomine didn't experience this personally, he watched it at close quarters.

Optic Nerve #8, © 2001 Drawn & Quarterly

Interviews with teen-age killers and evidence from the Columbine Massacre indicate that the shooters were repeatedly taunted by other classmates as queers. When you're sixteen years old, and just trying to figure things out for yourself, this kind of stress you don't need. Taunting of young men, especially accusing them of being queer, is probably the leading cause of teen-age massacres in America. The only reason it doesn't occur more often in other countries is because they keep the lid on much tighter, and guns are hard to come by. American kids are so used to making their own way (without adult guidance,) and seeing the violent denouement to a host of problems in television, film, comics, and video games, that going down in a blaze of glory seems like a natural move.

Optic Nerve has its finger on America's pulse. The story also concerns Cammie, a free-spirited girl who likes to party and likewise attracts the derision of her peers. The dialogue rings true. It's not high adventure, it's realism, and it rocks. Tomine's careful, architectural-like drawings tell the story beautifully. They won't send Jim Lee fans into paroxysms, but they get the job done.

Hellboy: Weird Tales 6

Written and drawn by various creators
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics, Price: $2.99

A grab bag of stories featuring Mignola's Hellboy on the eve of the Full Hellboy Monty. From Mike's art and trailers for the film one gathers Hellboy is on the far side of forty. Why is he still a boy? People might confuse Hellman with the mayonnaise. The first story, "Command Performance," is a polished little opal of a tale, written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by P. Craig Russell in his unique art deco style. "Performance" simply pops from panel to panel, and pays off big time with both horror and laughs. Somebody give this man twenty-two pages. (Hey! Somebody just did! Pfeifer will be writing Aquaman.) There can never be too much Russell. His panels express themselves as both design and action, and his smooth line is tailor-made for turn-of-the-century Paris, whose spirit hovers over the story

Hellboy: Weird Tales #6, © 2003 Dark Horse Comics

"Friday," by Doug Petrie and Gene Colan, doesn't work so well. Hellboy's op, a red-headed dame whose name doesn't appear in the story, fields a call. Monsters are met. They are skewered. Her loneliness is momentarily assuaged. Colan's art works well with dark and moody, and he draws a mean Viper. There's one panel of a futuristic home cantilevered over the crashing surf that is haunting.

"My Vacation In Hell" by Craig Thompson takes the shape of a series of illuminated manuscripts heavily influenced-or perhaps populated is a better word-by the creations of Heironymous Bosch. Which is to say its perfect. My fave is "Consumption Of Abominable Meat" which shows Hellbowy spewing big time. You'd expect to find this inspired fantasy in old Zap. Great stuff.

Finally, there's John Cassaday's "Lobster Johnson," an old-fashioned two-pager in the manner of a Sunday strip, complete with polka dot coloring. It seems more a homage, or an Andy Warhol type "statement" than a story. I don't get it.

Mike Baron is the creator of the award winning comic book Nexus and during his career has written an enormous variety of comics from The Flash to The Punisher. He is currently writing Faro Korbit for AP Comics, working on a Green Lantern novel for Byron Preiss, and is working on several projects destined to change the face of pop culture in his secret skunkworks.

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