Jhonen Vasquez - Everything Can Be Beaten

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Everything can be smitten

Apr 23, 2003 (Updated Aug 3, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Insightful, silly, cartoonish violence.

Cons:It's bound to be obscure, as Vasquez didn't use his name.

The Bottom Line: :) Cute and ugly at the same time. A personal favorite to spend some time with.

What we have here is a strange little storybook with ideas and narration by Jhonen Vasquez (as "Chancre Scolex"), drawn and painted by Brad Canby ("Crab Scrambly").

The cover, which you can't see here for some reason, reminds me exceedingly of an introduction panel at the front of most old cartoon shows. The cover actually reminds me a lot of Ren 'n' Stimpy, which I haven't thought of in years. Another interesting connection along that vein: John Kricfalusi was fired by Nickelodeon after a few seasons helming Ren 'n' Stimpy. Vasquez's Invader Zim, previously cancelled, is back on Nickelodeon without Vasquez's input.

You might find this a tenuous connection at best, but Kricfalusi's hyperreal, surreal and gross-out style informs more modern cartoons than can be counted, most of them on Cartoon Network. And Vasquez is influential enough in his own right, albeit mostly through those who read anything published by Slave Labor Graphics. Give him time. He'll take over the world eventually.

Now, Jhonen Vasquez has an aversion to most things cute. In his first comic Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, one of the characters is a dead bunny with a nail driven through it. Squee, a bug-eyed little boy, is constantly put-upon and freaked out in the Squee series. Fillerbunny is an anime-looking rabbit grown in a lab to provide the readers with non-stop entertainment, despite the fact that his mind is in eternal torment from the horrors of his captivity.

So it's not too surprising that on one of the full-color pages of this book, a creature called IT stomps through a happy valley and bludgeons everything to death. (The grimace on one of the Super Mario Bros.-looking clouds, as his insides are torn out, is grimly hilarious)

Here is the outlining of the plot for you: a creature which wears a mask over its eyes spends its existence in a little room smashing kittens that pile down from a conveyor belt. IT does not question its role in life, simply does the job it is made to do. IT notices a door that leads outside of the room for the first time. Walking outside, IT is confused and delighted by this new world, and reaches out the only way it knows how -- by bludgeoning everything it sees. IT is confused when nothing is left. Nature, over thousands of years, grows back, and IT is presented with a new world all over again. But IT grows tired of realizing everything can be beaten, and longs for its old, comforting role back in its room...

The story is actually a clever allegory on the notions of self and community, transcendence and acceptance, but I would be remiss if I didn't say there is a streak of dark glee a mile wide in finding this creature bludgeoning everything it comes by. In short, it's another work of Vasquez's that makes you think, grimace and laugh all at once, all the while wondering if you should be doing any of the three.

For those used to Vasquez's style of drawing, you may take a moment to get used to the full color paintings by fellow Slave Laborer Brad Canby. The designs come from sketches in a Vasquez notebook, and Canby brings the creatures to life in images of joy and unremitting pain. His paintings pop off the page, and give a sensual visual telling of this grim little tale.

Finally, though Vasquez doesn't draw anything in this book, he is very much in his element spouting off his random asides within the narrative. One of my favorites is "Sewer adventure!" as well as something about "the blood of the forest critters squelching in IT's undies."

You'll see.

Recommend this product? Yes

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