The Auteur is one of those bittersweet titles. On the one hand, I want to sing its praises from he highest mountain, or solicit it by menacingly haranguing passersby in the street. But I also don’t want to oversell it, because really, it’s something you have to experience on your own. Saying that, of the books on the scene that I am currently reading, some of which will inevitably become revered within the annals of comic book canon, The Auteur is perhaps my most eagerly-anticipated monthly pleasure. It shows how you take chances without guiltily softening the blow; how you can “say something” by not being condescending, holding the reader’s hand or worrying about offense. And its creative team achieves all of this effortlessly, like it’s the most natural thing in the world, while telling one of its most unnaturally bizarre stories. The end effect is a book that provides an itch that you love to scratch, no matter how bloody or pustulous it gets. Gross, sure, but oh-so satisfying.
In this issue of The Auteur, lovingly entitled “Writer’s Cock” (yup!), self-exiled, stark-raving mad Hollywood director and noted romantic, Nathan T. Rex, finds himself on Skull Island, where he must begin principal filming on his rape-heavy nazi propaganda biopic, as well as embark on a fearsome vision quest to find a cure for writer’s block.
This herculean, if ignoble task leads Rex through a bevy of heady challenges, from a testicularly-aggravated King Kong, to cannibalistic aborigines. All the while, he tries to figure out how to tell the woman he loves that she can’t be the lead in his film, and learns something (via “drugs”) about the art of writing in the process. It’s a feel-good for the whole family (said no one, ever).
As always, to read The Auteur, you will need a few things: a strong stomach, a block of wood to bite down on, a stiff drink and a firm shucking of your most delicate sensibilities. While definitely not as offensive as issues past, The Auteur: Sister Bambi #2 still features much in the way of adult material, like cocaine as both legal tender and sentient counsel, the vivid abuse of hallucinogenic drugs in aid of enlightenment, overt racism, and of course, one of the most gruesome, graphic and downright majestic gigantic monster monkey murders / machete-aided anal cavity eviscerations I have ever seen. Which is saying a lot, just so you know.
In so doing, this book remains the filthiest, funniest book out right now, bar none; with unquestionably some of the most experimental and hilarious art in semi-mainstream comics. Callahan’s work here is as gut-wrenching and cartoonishly gritty as Spears’ writing, incorporating an almost childlike levity within a framework that also allows equal parts depth and scope. Their combined efforts, along with Anderson’s perhaps surprisingly nuanced palette and Spears’ deftly-integrated lettering, give Rex truly exemplary character moments; his long, dark teatime of the soul with Buddha Hitchcock, for example, or the incredible narrative and visual parity during and in the aftermath of his psychedelic trip.
Spears, Callahan and Anderson are clearly having a whale of a time playing within the sandbox that comic books afford, pushing the envelopes of reality (with many hints suggesting that the characters knowingly exist in a comic) and of course, common decency. Props have to go to editor Charlie Chu and the entire Oni team for allowing this thing to see print in the first place. I would personally love to be a fly on the wall when and if everyone gets together to discuss story points, changes and marketing strategy for The Auteur. That’s gotta get some kinda weird.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book, or how better to pitch it. And I might need to stop reviewing it altogether, because I probably just sound like a very broken record at this point. But suffice it to say that you should be reading The Auteur: Sister Bambi (as well as its original series), buying it with all the money you are able to throw. If you want comics that take chances, don’t hold back and offer truly new ways to test your limits and those of the medium, this is where you need to be. Period.