Wow, this strip is pretty gruesome, even for All Hallows’ Eve Eve. I’m no expert on beheadings, but it seems to me that panel three does a realistic job of depicting the aftermath of one. That’s an awful lot of blood gushing down the wall and the effect is unsettling. In fact, I can’t think of another comic strip that’s been this graphic in its depiction of violence. (I’m not counting underground comics, of course.) I’d be curious to know whether any editors refused to run this strip, especially given the number of editors who’ve refused to run strips with mild sexual or political punchlines.
Archive for the ‘9 Chickweed Lane’ Category
Sometimes words lose their meaning through overly generic use. “Awesome,” for example, was once used to describe moon landings and atomic bomb blasts. Today, it’s used to describe sports highlights and snappy, smart-ass comebacks. Twenty years ago, “irony” was used sparingly, in reference to the exact right thing happening at the exact wrong time. It had a narrow (and therefore useful) definition. Today, it’s used to describe things that are only slightly askew. (“I forgot to tie my shoes this morning. That’s ironic.”) Perhaps this is unavoidable. As today’s 9 Chickweed Lane points out, even an innocent expression like “aw” can get caught up in the meat grinder that is the English language.
9 Chickweed Lane has spent an indefensible amount of time (weeks? months? years?) telling the story of this young woman and her two suitors, all of whom happen to be caught up in the Second World War. The strips have been text-heavy, soapy, and confusing, but today’s installment stands out for me. That’s because it reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Paths of Glory, a Stanley Kubrick classic set during World War I that ends with a young German woman being bullied into singing for French soldiers. Afraid at first, she manages to sing a heartfelt folk song, silencing her initially boorish audience and bringing some of them to tears. It’s a controversial (and knockout) ending to a genuinely intense war movie.
I spent the better part of this morning watching one of the most exciting tennis matches I’ve ever seen: Roger Federer versus Andy Roddick in the men’s final at Wimbledon. The match ended with Federer breaking Roddick’s serve for the first time to claim the fifth set 16-14. Prior to that point, Federer had won two sets on tiebreakers (one of them in unlikely, come-from-behind fashion). Adding to the drama was the fact that the Swiss master was playing for his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title in front of a gallery of legends that included previous record holder Pete Sampras. Five-set matches usually feature significant shifts in momentum, but this one was unbelievably even throughout. I never once thought that either man was out of it until the very last point. In a word: classic.
Every now and then, a comedic film will make a sudden shift in tone with the intent of jarring the audience. This technique can be powerful (see Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels) or manipulative (see Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums). Cartoonists have also been known to veer into serious territory, but it’s rare to see an installment that suggests a new direction for the strip as a whole. Today’s 9 Chickweed Lane seems to do just that. It’s hard to see how the characters can continue on their merry way after one of them is forced by an omnipotent being into giving birth to a cockroach. It’s as if the strip’s central frame of reference shifted from musical theater to Kafka’s Metamorphosis in the space of a single punchline.
This is an elegant and subtle rendition of lovemaking, although it also seems to be too absract for its own good. It’s an intersting strip to look at, given that the hands resemble a collection of shadow puppets without the shadows, but it’s also too high-concept to be genuinely expressive. As a minor point, I’m not sure what the reasoning was for dividing this strip in two when it would have been much more seamless as a single panel.
The action sequence in this strip offers an elegant and exciting tribute to the Spaceman Spiff sequences from Calvin and Hobbes, but what I like most is the expression on the young woman’s face in the final panel. It’s the type of expression one would expect from a creative person who has been cornored by logic and reason. The other person may be right, after all, but their cold and calculated rhetorical methods are demonstrably no fun.