It's Only a Matter of Life and Death

Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of It's Only a Matter of Life and Death Creator(s): Peter Kuper
Publishers: Fantagraphics
From: USA
Price: $3.95 (US)

The screaming man on the cover of this comic has the right approach for this book as Peter investigates some of the darker sides of life as apparent in money, politics, the army, drugs, bent cops etc. The first story, One Dollar follows the progress of a dollar note as it passes through many hands in the big city. A printer, taxi driver, street-side musician, prostitute, and robber are just some of the people that find that money only gives brief pleasure and long term pain and misfortune. The next story follows the same them, but in a more surreal frame of mind as an average bloke finds that the bank won't honour his cash card. His attempt to find out what is going on takes a few Kafka inspired turns.

Kafka actually wrote the next story that Peter illustrates, A Fratricide, a bland in a nasty way tale of a street side murder witnessed by uncaring people, carried out by an emotionally numb killer. In other stories Peter provides mixes politics with comic publishing, recounts a scary experience on a train to Berlin, and illustrates The Big Death, based on some passages by Raymond Chandler.

So you can see, there's lots to read here and it's all thought provoking stuff. Peter's current woodcut art style is on show in most of the material here, as is his fondness for wordless narrative. But there's a range of styles on show, with Train to Berlin being drawn with more open white page on show that reminds me of an English kids comic with a serious purpose. The tale of a bank gone bad, Red Tape employs the striking gimmick of having a little bit of red colouring appearing in nearly each panel of the otherwise black and white comic.

In all this is a collection of stories worth owning as it is sure to reward repeated readings.

In a Word: Vigorous.

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