Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Graphically Speaking: Superfuckers

Words: Jared Gniewek

James Kochalka's Superfuckers is like Legion of Superheroes in that it stars a cavalcade of super powered teenagers who share a clubhouse. It presupposes, however, that those granted with these powers and have made it onto the team may just be assholes. Big assholes. Imagine the worst of your high school strutting about fighting and fucking each other for four years. Now imagine them as simply rendered cartoon characters with retina-burning spandex outfits. Not a very pretty sight is it?

Not to say that all of the characters are socially irredeemable jocks. There are also mopey intellectuals, shy creatives, and sensitive artful monstrosities but the overall feel of the book is frat house shenanigans with jerky teens. I'm sure if the beer-pongers of America were given copies of this book it would become a favorite among that set. They could manufacture cloth images of Jack Krak to replace the moth eaten Bob Marley flags hanging in their windows. They could host parties where they all dress up like Superfuckers and do bong hits while playing video games on the house flat-screen. The "more is more" dynamic, the pendulum swinging between the homoerotic and homophobic, and the cocksure filthiness of the language while appearing so innocuously colorful would spiral the book into South Park's 1998 levels of asshole saturation.

It skewers the soap opera dynamics of team books as characters fall into and out of each others' arms, vie for leadership, and fall into other dimensions to turn evil etc. But perhaps, Kochalka hits a little too close to the mark because the book tends to drag. It totally feels like reading a lackluster Bronze Age Essential/Showcase volume in one sitting. As single issues, I imagine they are a more satisfying read but when going from one issue to the next to the next in a collection like this the scenes tend to feel as repetitive as the stories they are supposed to satirize.

The sophomoric dialogue and frantic colorful violence would be hilarious if read a bit at a time but I was so desensitized to the vulgarity by the end that I was left wanting for something substantive to grab onto. At first I was laughing out loud but it didn't take long for my attention to wane. There is definitely more to the book than simple shock value but it depends so heavily on it to break into those deeper territories that it would seem that the very thing that enables the book to transcend ends up bogging it down.

Superfuckers tends to feel disjointed and chaotic. Almost a stream of consciousness. On this level the book is solid and rewarding (and pretty funny). It totally feels like we have peeled back the scalp and skull of James Kochalka and taken a good hard look at the pulp of his gray matter here. I enjoyed the book more on this level--the level of an id exercise. A total release of voice and vision unedited and raw. Sometimes that can make for the very best in comics (and Kochalka has definitely made some great ones in this vein) but here it just doesn't seem to save the book.

Overall, I was left feeling that the repetition and disjointedness of the book made it not work for me as a whole. I recommend picking it up and reading it in small doses if you already enjoy James Kochalka's work but I'm pretty sure this would be the wrong book to start reading him with.

Digital review copy provided by Top Shelf. 

Reviewer Jared Gniewek joined Graphic NYC with the site's relaunch in September, 2009. Jared has worked in the music industry as a back line technician, performer, and promoter. He has also been a freelance writer whose work can be seen in the recent re-launch of Tales from the Crypt and heard on The Dark Sense, an audio anthology of the macabre for which he is also the story editor. Jared’s blog, Die By The Pen, outlines his philosophies and personal quest as a writer. His cartooning can be found on his blog Scary-Oke, a monster indy cartoon karaoke game stemming from his own twisted mind.