Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Black Kiss 2 #1


Two ideas hold sway in Howard Chaykin's Black Kiss 2 #1: film and fucking. Each primal, both necessary. The primeval quality of film (the shadows on the wall) comes from light. Light penetrates film, and darkness to create feelings and emotions. A film has many fathers, many mothers and many creators, all engaging in a singular pursuit: storytelling. Film is art.

Fucking, well, fucking is fucking, the means to an end. A good fuck is a good fuck, a release, instinctual, entirely corporeal and, perhaps, even, artless.

Capital 'F' Film begets love and honor, romance and adventure and above all, style; grand and visionary pursuits fit for places called palaces. You can fuck in a palace, that doesn't make it romantic or adventurous, it's still a fuck. In fact you can fuck anywhere and that's the great thing about fucking, about any atavistic pursuit; Cole Porter was right, ''birds do it, bees do it.''

Howard Chaykin does not suffer fools, gladly or otherwise[*]. His star is fixed in the firmament of modern comic book creators -- the jacket copy of Image's American Flagg! Vol. 1 calls him 'one of the seminal architects of the modern American comic book.' Seminal. Sometimes you can't make this shit up.

When the first iteration of Black Kiss was published in 1988/1989 it was (and still is) considered controversial, explicit and even pornographic. In my review of Andy Belanger's Black Church, I wrote that I missed the days when reading or even looking at a comic book could be akin to a 'dangerous and subversive act.' Black Kiss 2 is prurient, it is overt, but nowadays can a comic book still be controversial when church ladies titter away as they wantonly read Fifty Shades of Grey on a public beach?

Hollywood was the fa├žade and vampires the stand-ins of the original Black Kiss; Chaykin's commentary on the rampant censorship that was happening in popular culture in the Regan-eighties. From the black and white 'parental advisory stickers' on CDs to new rating to keep movies 'safe' or safer (the NC-17 rating was established in 1990). The worry was that these same neo-puritans would come for comics and put some bite back in the toothless comics code authority. Black Kiss was a personal statement, a political act. So what's Chaykin so pissed about now?

In his essay, 'The Killer Hook: Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!,' Michael Chabon says: ''The characteristic Chaykin facial expression is the raised eyebrow -- of irony, skepticism, puckishness, the satirist's rage.'' All those emotions are in plain black and white in Black Kiss 2 #1. The narrative voice seethes with acid cynicism. The 'Why,' however, hides behind lacey darkness. One thing's for sure, when the blank-eyed, bat-winged, blond-haired demon with the multiple-phalluses shows up, it's never about the blank-eyed, bat-winged, blond-haired demon with the multiple-phalluses, and it never was.

Black Kiss 2 is a six-issue mini-series, so my best guess is that by Valentine's Day readers may have a clearer picture of what the rape of Charlie 'Bubba' Kenton by the succubus means and if Abie Gelbfein and Rose O'Mally's fuck session in the projectionist's booth has any juice and what was up with the B-E.B-W.B-H. demon. For now, it's all shadows and light. ''Light,'' the narrator says, ''exploding from the very asshole of hell itself.''

Black Kiss 2 is subversive, filthy and, so far, confusing as all hell.  None of those qualities make it a bad (or a good) comic book, maybe 'tease' is the right word in this context. There's a simile about how a short story is like lighting a match in a darkened, empty room, a short small glimpse into a bigger world, a personal and intimate place. Maybe patience is best, you know, waiting for when the time is right before you pull out, metaphorically speaking, of course. So, keep your eyebrow cocked, your pecker hard and your powder dry and give yourself over to the flickering light of Black Kiss 2, whatever the fuck it and Chaykin are trying to say.

[*] See his answers in the Q&A section (The Third Degree) in the back of Black Kiss 2 #1.

1 comment:

  1. After reading your review, I feel dirty just thinking about reading this comic.

    Thank you for that.