Panel Patter Quick Hits: Cunningham, Darrow, and Ronan/Inyagwa

More short reviews for your Monday Morning, leading off with Emilia Packard's look at Age of Selfishness, a take down of Ayn Rand and her beliefs that lacks enough nuance to work as a critique:

The Age of Selfishness
Written and Illustrated by Darryl Cunningham
Published by Abrams

It’s fine not to like Ayn Rand -- I certainly don’t. It’s fine to be furious at financial deregulation and its contribution to the Global Financial Crisis of the later 2000s - I know I am. It’s even fine to define yourself as politically liberal and believe that liberals are superior in open-mindness, willingness to change, giving to others, and so forth -- I basically do. It’s, however emphatically not fine to conflate all these feelings as though they were implicitly connected and offered some complete and completely satisfying answer as to everything that’s wrong with the world.

There’s a lot of good in The Age of Selfishness, especially in the first two sections-- there’s a fascinating and crisp biography of a hypocritical and hateful Ayn Rand, what a mess she was. There’s a fantastic explanation of how sub-prime mortages were created and why they contributed so tremendously to the financial crisis. There is a tenuous but interesting argument advanced about how conservative values are close-minded and self-serving and how many conservatives have inculcated and propagated Randian objectivism and selfish attitudes to society’s detriment and their own.

Unfortunately, it’s not all tied together very well, and presumes over and over again that you are absolutely on the same page as Cunningham, that the troubles of our era are for the most part due to conservative values and Alan Greenspan, ignoring the equally selfish and troubling effects of a mass-media consuming, selfie-snapping, Facebook-fed generation on societal mores. Furthermore, though his Cunningham’s art is serviceable, and effectively accusatory, it gets monotonous -- it’s too bad, because this has the makings of a great book, but he assumes that you are hook line and sinker on his side from the get go, and for me, while I do agree with his premise that we are getting more selfish as a society, Randian economics are far from the only contributing factor. And furthermore, if I have to see crumbling buildings signifying societal decay and downfall again, I will scream. Some good stuff here, but a bit too on the nose as a whole. (Review by Emilia Packard)

Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet
Written and Illustrated by Geof Darrow
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by Peter Doherty
Dark Horse Comics

If you want to see over a hundred pages of a man graphically butchering zombies with an elaborate contraption made of two chainsaws attached to a long pole, then Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet is the perfect book for you. If you know Geof Darrow's work, then you know what to expect here. If not, then know that he is an absolutely stunning visual storyteller, who brings all kinds of insane levels of detail to the page. He's in some pretty rarified air when it comes to both his ability and his general style; he's an influential artist (though I've only come to his work after seeing the work of others who have clearly been influenced by him), and his work brings to mind the style of Frank Quitely, Rafael Grampa, Nick Pitarra and James Stokoe. What I would call a beautifully ugly style of artwork. 

The book begins with an extremely long, intermittently funny, sometimes offensive story of the life and adventures of the Shaolin Cowboy. After this is over, we see the aforementioned cowboy reappear and then just fight zombies who come out of nowhere. There really isn't a plot, just one of the most stunning, grotesque, extended fight sequences you will ever see in a comic. The story has something of a poetically anticlimactic ending, but don't come for the story. Come for the staggering, disgusting, graceful display of violence and motion.  (Review by James Kaplan)

Equinox Issues #1 & 2
Written by Craig Ronan and Nyadenya Inyagwa
Art by Craig Ronan

This self published 8.5 x 5.5 mini comic has a planned run of ten issues and should be an interesting ride if the first two are any indication.  The story is a cheesy action adventure with a squad of stylized heroes, but the main draw is the art which veers into abstraction and oddball experiments on nearly every page.  Sometimes shadows will suddenly be thrown in nonsensical directions or an explosion will look like a giant orchid.  The lines of characters' bodies and faces often continue onto other objects or become part of the panel border like a Saul Steinberg doodle.  The results vary but the low stakes experimentation is a lot of fun to watch. (Review by AJ McGuire)