Friday, 17 July 2015

Life with Mr. Dangerous by Paul Hornschemeier Review

Amy is a soon-to-be 26 year old retail clerk in a clothes store. She just broke up with yet another bad boyfriend, hates her job, doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life, and pines for Michael, a friend whom she calls every night because he lives far away in San Francisco. Her only friends are her cat and the TV show Mr Dangerous. That’s right, it’s another instalment of: Sad Bastard Comics!

Life with Mr Dangerous appeared in 2011 at the tail end of the indie-comics boom of the late ‘00s when they were suddenly moderately popular and big publishers like Penguin and Random House began putting out non-superhero comics, ie. Graphic Novels, about glum folk. They didn’t sell like they hoped and that experiment came to an end.

Unfortunately, Paul Hornschemeier’s Life with Mr Dangerous is probably his least engaging, mostly for being repetitively miserable like too many other books. Miserable is fine but there are tons of comics about single young people looking for love, not enjoying their jobs, and finding disappointment with their lives, and you can only do it so many ways before it becomes a worn out conceit.

Dan Clowes is the master of these kinds of comics but plenty of other cartoonists have done variations of this kind of story themselves. Jeffrey Brown, Adrian Tomine, Dean Haspiel, Peter Bagge, Charles Burns, Julia Wertz, Kevin Huizenga, the Hernandez brothers, Chris Ware, Dylan Horrocks, Jason Shiga, Alison Bechdel, Box Brown, Charles Burns, Alex Robinson, Alison Bechdel, Seth, Joe Matt and Chester Brown, to name a few.

What does Paul Hornschemeier bring to the table? Nowt much. His art is very pretty but his story is not especially deep or insightful and the Mr Dangerous cartoons are a bit of an obvious metaphor for her life. However, Amy’s an identifiable, realistic character who’s well written as the drifting twentysomething, and the quietly belligerent conversations between Amy and her mum are pretty good – if there’s one thing Hornschemeier does well, it’s parent/child relationships. You get the sense of desperation lurking beneath the surface of the story, for all the characters, but can also guess how Amy’s story will resolve itself, particularly if you’ve read any of the creators above.

Life with Mr Dangerous is a moody melancholic piece, like all of Hornschemeier’s books, but this one feels derivative of too many other comics to stand out. No wonder the indie comics bubble went kaput – the gloomy gits kept going round in circles!

Life with Mr. Dangerous

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