Tuesday, December 11, 2012

(Not) Trade Waiting - House of Fun by Evan Dorkin

As a medium, comics are the best. You know this, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this post. But due to the nature of the medium and the way we absorb the information on the page some genres thrive within comics more than others. Action, Crime, Fantasy and Sci-Fi are all work incredibly well within the confines of the page but there are others that are harder to execute that, in other mediums, are some of the most popular of all. One is horror, a medium that relies on its ability to force the reader/viewer to keep with the pace of the creator to create tension and shock, something that is lost in comics where the reader dictates the pace rather than the creator. (See the inevitable Trade Waiting end of year list for a horror comic that gets it oh so right.) Another is the genre of comedy, where in comics there are many that try but not so many that can consider themselves masters. Sergio Aragones is one such master, Trade Waiting favourite Johnny Ryan is another. If you want to look at great comedic writers in the superhero field look no further than the Man of Action boys or the fantastic Gail Simone. One creator who has been on the comedic treadmill longer than most and doesn't seem to get the respect he deserves is Milk and Cheese creator and former Bill and Ted comic writer Evan Dorkin. Thankfully 'Dork' has most recently found a home within Dark Horse Comics, who have collected Dorkin's gag strips found in Dark Horse Presents into one handy little comic named The House of Fun. Is it any good? More importantly is it funny? Find out after the jump.

Evan Dorkin's House of Fun
Words and Art by Evan Dorkin
Colours by Sarah Dyer

Is Evan Dorkin under-appreciated within the comic book community? Does he even care? An industry veteran in both the realms of comic books and television, Dorkin is seemingly in a position that most creators covet, a realm where creatively he can do what ever he likes and a dedicated fan base will follow. Beasts of Burden, his funny animal detective horror book created with Jill Thompson was a critical hit and deservedly so, and the hard cover Milk and Cheese collection released at the tail end of last year was dense, dizzying and fantastic. With House of Fun, Dorkin is returning to what he does best; a little bit of Milk and Cheese, a whole lot of scathing satire and lashings of great cartooning.

Contained within House of Fun are comics of varying length, from four panel strips to dark six page tales that all contain the dark wit that Dorkin has in abundance. The big draw is the four Milk and Cheese comics that are peppered throughout House of Fun, which run to the tried and tested Milk and Cheese formula; set up, mindless violence, pay off. So far, so entertaining but the satire contained within the tales is where the true humour (and horror of what mega conglomerates are capable of,) lies. The sharpest of the Milk and Cheese tales is the one where our dairy based heroes receive a cease and desist letter from the Disney corporation saying that they can't wear, in their words, their cartoony gloves anymore. In a world where mega corporations are notorious for crushing the little man for what they believe is 'theirs' the strip could have slipped into more sobering territory but we are dealing with Milk and Cheese (and more importantly Dorkin) here, and hilarious violence is always the answer. The two longer strips contained within House of Fun are similarly hilarious. The first being a riff on the Addams Family formula but with a lovable family of serial killers that is closer in tone to Dorkin's Milk and Cheese blueprint of violence with humorous results. The second tale proves that Dorkin is not averse to pointing his wit in the direction of the comics and 'geek' community as a whole with a group of pretty obsessive zombie fans arguing the merits of the walking zombie over the running zombie within the confines of an actual zombie walk. The strip is downright mean and completely hilarious, and frankly if you can't laugh at it, maybe you are the characters that Dorkin is so adept at lambasting. Hands down the funniest part of House of Fun are the forty two (that's right forty two) newspaper style gag strips that range from absurd humour to more darker, yet still funny ditties. These are the sections that this reviewer actually found himself, as the kids call it, LOL'ing on regular intervals. With titles such as the Ayn Rand Objectivist Theater, Bad Rabbi, Studies Show Batman Crossovers Boost Comic Sales Up To 80%, and Least Beloved Ultraman Monsters (According to some very agitated men on an internet message board,) you know you are in for a treat.

With all this hilarity across the board, it is easy to forget how accomplished a cartoonist Evan Dorkin actually is. His thick line instantly evokes some of your favourite cartoons which actually makes some of the more violent stuff contained feel like an old Tom and Jerry where the expressive art dulls your senses to the shocking maiming and decapitations that are regular features, particularly within Milk and Cheese. Beware though, Dorkin makes no bones about this being a very adult comic, particularly with the violence and the language, so don't let the line work bamboozle you into giving this to little Timmy, although to be honest, Timmy would probably love it too. Adding to the cartoon feeling of House of Fun are Sarah Dyer's fantastic flat colours which evoke Laura Allred in their effortless grace.

Verdict - Must Buy

Three dollars and fifty cents. This is how much one of the funniest comics released in a long time costs. Dark and witty, House of Fun is the sort of book that will slap you across the face, then laugh, and then if you still stick around give you a cuddle afterwards. Evan Dorkin truly is a master of his craft and both you and he should enjoy every minute he spends proving it to you.

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