Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Blast Furnace -- Recreational Thief! Vol. 1

'stache Stash

Ryan Browne's Blast Furnace Recreational Thief Volume One exists for every comic book fan that says, 'fuck, why don't more heroes wear flaming neckties.' An esprit de Blast Furnace (if such a thing was a thing) would require a light touch, improvisational pluck and twirling twirling always twirling  
Acute assonance comes no better than in the titular Earnest Furnace. What about 'Blast' you ask, where does that come in? Look, opportunities to make alliterative vowel jokes come rarely or not at all, smoke 'em if you got 'em, amirigt? Dude only signs his name 'Blast Furnace' (actually he only signs 'Blast Fu' which is a joke too, get it? FU -- Ed.) and besides, Browne should be given a friggin' Rhysling for coming up with a name like Earnest Furnace in the first place. A murderous S.O.B, Furnace shoots first, enjoys a good crab boil (who doesn't) and drives a Prius -- it's a rental, but still, effort.  

Blast Furnace is like a kick to the crotch (that seems harsh), O.K., how about 'a dark chest of wonders' (better, much better) to remind readers that ideas rule and plans are for pussies. In his 'act as if' approach, Browne creates a comic as an extemporaneous exercise in storytelling. Browne says it this way and with far less pretension: ''[Blast Furnace] was created a page a day with an hour spent on each page (or thereabouts) with little to no pre-planning over the course of six months.''

What keeps Blast Furnace from slapdash half-assery comes from a fire hydrant gush of brainstorms, gags and non-sequiturs. Its un-predictableness is what keeps it fresh. Browne goes whole-ass in this comic; the jokes aim low, hit hard and come in on all sides, some silly some stupid and others straight-up surreal. Chances are that Browne writes the first (and only) bird-shit-in-the-mouth gag that makes one consider Chaos Theory, no joke.

Like a Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker movie -- more Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane! than Naked Gun or Hot Shots! -- Browne strings sketches that feel loose and impulsive, but never out of place.  So when ''He who looks exactly like a horse but actually is just a hideously deformed man'' or Ralphie the Bear or even the dragon bartender appears on the page it comes off feeling original and less asinine than it sounds. Browne's puns-per-page rival the output of Brandon Graham.

Wait. Who the hell is He who looks exactly like a horse but actually is just a hideously deformed man?  What about Blast Furnace or Earnest Furnace or whatever the fuck his name is, what about that dude? See, that's the thing about a thing like Blast Furnace, it loses something in the translation when you give all the jokes away and it never stagnates long enough on one mustachioed thief or anthropomorphic extra before it's on to the next one. Perhaps the most genius turn Browne takes imagines instructional art school doodles 'Tippy the Turtle' and 'the Pirate' as paid contract killers. No shit. What could be a throwaway at its folksiest gives the story insider immediacy, inspiration and the saddest backstory ever to feature a blue snaggletooth toy, a boy vampire and an afro pick.

Only someone who would kick a puppy would call Browne's cartooning crude. O.K., there is no innovative panel layout here or detailed backgrounds that looks like someone went on a weeklong meth-bender, but as an added bonus, no photo-reference either, score. For those in the 'my-kid-could-do-that-or-I-could-do-that' crowd, welcome to the not-so-profitable, but wonderful world of DIY comics and you're wrong. Browne knows sequential art, knows where to place word bubbles to cover up the naughty bits and he knows a crack about a robot businessman built out of other robot businessmen kills every time.

If it weren't for all the fucking swear words and needless, pointless preventable violence (always the best kind) one could claim Blast Furnace Recreational Thief Volume One Wonka-esque.  To go further, one could employ (leaning on a too long overused cliché) the phrase, 'Browne takes readers down the rabbit hole;' however, this creates a false sense of all-ages appropriateness and no comic with this amount of inter- and intra-species hard sex not to mention ''incredibly hard, graphic and exhausting love making sessions'' should be given to children or someone who can't legally be admitted to R-rated movies.

Blast Furnace winks at the 'mad ones, mad to live, mad to talk' (to coin a phrase), those for whom one super-powered Fu Manchu mustache can never be enough. It comes from place where a cyclopean-news reporter makes as much sense as enslaved chain-smoking and trucker-hat-wearing ostriches who only want a 'little personal time' to enjoy some pay-per-view. If that sounds ridiculous and manic you haven't heard the half of it. Blast Furnace (ahem) fires the mind and makes you think how fun it is to steal in a found art anything goes hip-hop kooky-kind-of-way.


Blast Furnace Recreational Thief Volume One was a Kickstarter success. For non-backers Browne is as entrepreneurial as he is funny so there is an Etsy site:
Or you can visit the virtual Ryan Browne at

1 comment:

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