Ah, The Auteur. Once again it’s time to suckle on the gore-ificent horror of your dark-witted tit. I’ve been following this Oni Press smash since the very beginning, and ever since then, I’ve been both delighted and disgusted with how much I enjoy each and every issue. It is hilarious, disquieting and gorgeous in equal measure. In a word, this comic book is unforgettable, and if you haven’t already, you should be paying good cash money to let it disturb you. Facing the bloody ramifications at the end of last issue, which saw his leading man (a serial killer he helped free from prison) brutally murder his leading woman (who he cast for having perfect breasts), shameless Hollywood director, Nathan T. Rex ... finds his shame, attempting to run away from his debilitating guilt - made manifest in his current comeback project, a film called President’s Day - by transforming it from a slasher flick into a sappy rom-com.
In that, this is a sick and satirical look at the moviemaking process, which - like politics - is often an extremely conceited one, perpetrated by those with more self-regard than for that of their work, or even less, their audience. At the same time, Rex’s maniacal intolerance of Hollywood - with its ubiquitous presence of precious writers, mafioso studio execs and apathetic actors - makes him both hero and villain in The Auteur, a crafty little trick accomplished this time with a well-used bullhorn and no small amount of explosives.
Interestingly, though, this issue brings out more of the character’s humanity than we’ve seen previously, both in showing a new, tenderer aspect of his dealings with humanity (focused specifically on the object of his current desires: his new leading lady), while taking nothing away from his egotistical, over-the-top, excess-addled blowhardedness. Weirdly enough, Spears makes you feel a strange sort of sympathy for this devil, which is especially off-putting since he really deserves none.
In general, Rick Spears has the most unique concept of comedic timing in comic books today. Combined with artist James Callahan’s bonkers visual ride-along, that makes for a parade of strangely intoxicating moments in a twisted, purposefully oddly-paced and offbeat narrative that remains utterly predictability-proof. It also makes The Auteur a very special, “no-fucks-given” kind of funny, which I have become addicted to in its industry-cracking idiosyncrasy.
In fact, I want to take a minute right here to once again commend Oni Press’ commitment to allowing this voice - however absurdly abrasive - to express itself so freely. It takes a lot of genital fortitude to even print these gorgeously-rendered, yet insanely contentious covers, let alone the maddening story that follows.
The art from Callahan continues to be a bit devolutionary. What I mean is that it usually starts strong in the beginning, gets oddly inconsistent in the middle and usually peters out with one or two noticeable flourishes by the end. Given his clear skill and the story’s overall penchant for a non-sequitur style, I’d have to say this is a conscious effort to jump between incredible detail and benign but unfocused farce in a way that makes me immediately think of a Ren & Stimpy cartoon, but with more nudity and blood-loss. The cumulative effect, however, remains the same; which is to say, unswervingly unnerving.
As ever, The Auteur treads that razor-thin line of being outright offensive and bitingly hilarious. Racism, sexism, alcoholism, love: nothing is off-limits, and this is a book that will tell your sensitivity - should you still be clinging to such a thing while reading it (an incredibly ill-advised practice) - to take a fucking hike.
Is The Auteur#4 perfect? No, definitely not; it gets jumpy, nonsensical and will be offensive to the thin-skinned, but you shouldn’t come here looking for “perfection.” This is ugly, brutal, seeping-wound style writing and art with no reservations and very little in the way of self-censorship. This, friends, this is a comic for bastards!
Writer: Rick Spears Artist: James Callahan Colorist: Luigi Anderson Publisher: Oni Press Price: $3.99 Release Date: 6/18/14 Format: Ongoing, Print/Digital