Wednesday, March 12, 2014

31 Days of Short Reviews #12: Joe Infurnari

Joe Infurnari is a talented cartoonist whose style is a sort of marriage of Mort Drucker-style exaggerated caricatures and the grotesque qualities of modern humor comics. Pretty much every line is over the top, ridiculous and expressive, assaulting the viewer with his form of virtuoso linework. In  Vs., co-written with Alexis Sottile, Infurnari details the various horrific living situations he dealt with in the New York area, reimagined as hulking and disgusting monsters. There's a frantic quality to his work that's straight out of MAD, both in terms of the rubbery and explosive nature of the drawings themselves but also because of the way he uses Bernie Krigstein-style shadows to amusingly heighten the drama in each sequence.

In his series Time Fucker, Infurnari uses a high concept more reminiscent of another humor magazine: National Lampoon. A schlub name Sal is haunted by the specter of his younger brother Dick, who not only could do no wrong but had sex with Sal's object of his affection, a girl named Sally. So naturally Sal finds Thomas Edison's Peepshow Time Machine (which requires its user to mount it to make it work) and comes up with the idea of having sex with the mom of everyone who ever wronged him, starting with his brother, in order to blot them out of existence. It's a ludicrous concept that works because Infurnari takes every joke as far as he can go. For example, he learns that Dick's dad is actually the flamboyant R&B singer Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who cockblocks him when he tries to have sex with his own mom. When he tries to erase Screamin' Jay Hawkins from existence, he learns that the entire line of his ancestry beats the crap out of him, until he finds a prehistoric relative ("Missin' Link Lucy") whom he manages to subjugate. Naturally, that triggers a future where hamsters rule the earth.

That sort of convoluted logic gets even crazier in the second issue, where he succeeds in his quest but finds (after a series of hilariously-drawn sex scenes, with each position being given a silly name) that things are complicated than he initially thought. The comic was originally published online at Dean Haspiel's Trip City website, and it has the feel of a web comic on the page. That is, it seems  like Infurnari feels compelled to grab the reader's attention in every single panel on every single page. Part of this is a function of his line, which leans toward the grotesque and distorted in every drawing, but it's also a function of working hard to make every last line look funny. As a result, reading these comics was enjoyable but also exhausting, as the eye had no place to pause or rest on any given page. Even pages and panels where gags weren't needed or part of the story at that moment still get funny-looking, labored drawings, which at times makes it difficult to differentiate between sequences that are actually funny and those that simply look funny. The concept and execution of this series is outrageous enough without having to sell it on every page. To his credit, Infurnari relaxes a bit toward the end of the second issue, mixing in crazed fight sequences with drawings that are still intense but don't take the reader out of the narrative.

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