Life is Humiliation
Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2006
By: Steve Saville
Creator(s): Matt Boyce
Publishers: Mamtor (Self Published)
Life is Humiliation is hardly an uplifting title for a comic now is it, and the subtitle of this 16 pager does little to lift a feeling of growing pessimism, 'introducing the man with a hole in his head'. So a heavy serving of doom and gloom would seem to be the order of the day then.
Indeed it would be easy to catagorize Matt Boyce's black and white comic as little more than the miserable outpouring of some tragic individual who's got a downer on life. And to be honest parts of this comic do indeed come close to justifying this response. In fact the first 11 pages, consisting of seven short strips, don't really give us anything startlingly new or imaginative. We are told that life is crap if you live in a small town and you have a hole in your head [metaphorically and literally]. We are also presented with a little happy man who dances for us and some microcosmic beasts who talk to us [in a quite random fashion I might add, but I guess that is quite possibly how microcosmic beasts do actually communicate].
But then just when it all seemed a little predictable and darkly boring along comes Dave the vampire snail to save the day. In the best tradition of one page strips Boyce's Dave manages in three simple frames to capture the essence of frustration. And capture this essence in a charming and very amusing way too. I mean think about it, a vampire snail • it just isn't going to work is it. Delightful.
Having recaptured my attention Boyce then delivers his killer blow in the form of the collections longest strip a five pager that gives the comic its title. By giving himself some more space Boyce is able to build a depth of characterization missing from the brief glimpses presented in the previous strips and as a result this tale is the most satisfying and complete strip in the collection. A tale of an old man pissing himself in hospital is dark enough and certainly humiliating. Initially though we feel little sympathy for this cantankerous old man but Boyce takes this initial revulsion and turns us around. As the story concludes we are left feeling saddened and weighted down by a feeling of guilt regarding how our society treats the aged. Boyce's skill here is to use his simple "slice of life" tale to make a comment the cruelty of modern society. The final frame, smaller than the rest, placed in the middle of a blank page is both touching and tragically pathetic.
Thankfully a little red heart features on the back cover as if to indicate that there is hope after all, I certainly hope so. The art work in this collection is raw and simple but it works. The simplistic representation of the man with a hole in his head effectively encapsulates the characters inner barrenness. Sad to say though I have some more bad news for him, not only does the poor bugger have a hole in his head it appears that he also lacks nipples, ain't life cruel.
In a Word: Dark.
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