I kind of needed this book this week. I started part-time work in a comic shop this year, and one of the creeping realizations that came with the job was realizing just how much the industry really does rely on blind nostalgia and collector baiting. Little local shops wouldn't even exist in most cases without those guys who buy every Deadpool variant or pre-order the latest 3-D Motion cover of a book they don't even read. It's a little bit heartbreaking. So to get a genuine art book to review after staring into that vicious abyss was a pleasant reminder that even if they aren't perfect, somebody, somewhere, is trying to do even a little bit of something with their pens and paper. Meet Frank. Frank has tumors in his head so bad they sometimes drop out of his nose. Frank is a writer, plagued by constant pain and self-hatred; an addict and an all-around gross guy. In Tyranny of the Muse we get a little peek into Frank's dingy vividly anxious life, skipping around through different writing styles as we go.
The art is mostly great. Really, really great. Artist Jesse Balmer puts great care into his black and white inkwork, illustrating Frank's internal and external maladies with great creativity and detail, in grotesque underground comic style. Some pages are better than others, with conversations scenes looking a bit rushed at times as if the artist wanted to get them out of the way to get back to drawing pubic hair and chronic pain, but there would always be a panel of detail that would win me back right after. Balmer is easily the highlight of the book, and the main reason I'll keep reading in the future.
Unfortunately, Eddie Wright's script is where the book is less strong. While not uniformly bad, it does suffer from bouts of pretension and weak or unnecessary dialogue. The book is 42 pages long. Very little happens and we get no practical context for the misery until the last few pages. There's a lovely bit near the end where Frank obsesses neurotically about his Marla Singeresque female companion, putting you directly in his sweat-stained shoes as he craves and fears her, but it's the only point in the whole book where the writing and the art mesh and help each other. Otherwise, Wright's script works best when it's silent, behind the scenes guiding Balmer's art.
I'll read the second book. I'm not in love, but for what it is it doesn't come across as too terribly desperate and for 42 pages worth of rot and pity, that's something. It's good to get a break every so often from 'Daredevil Energy Drink Variant's and 'Gotham' rumors. Maybe we'd all benefit from more of them.
Writer: Eddie Wright Artist: Jesse Balmer Price: $5.99 – Print, $0.99 – Digital Website