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It’s not often that I totally don’t get something; not only acknowledging that it missed the mark, but not even grasping what it was going for in this first place. So, I’ll caveat by saying that either I totally didn’t get this, or it’s just awful. I’m betting the latter, but if you tell me it’s the former, well fine, it’s just one guy’s opinion. Many of the cryptic word abbreviations pushed me right out, beginning with the very first panel. It was stuff like “that shudda binna goal easy!” and then 30 more pages of that style. The reproduction quality is a little fuzzy and faded looking throughout. Perhaps there was an effort here to achieve a 1960’s SF Crumb vibe, but no, it was just a fail. “Today my bestest comic is in the shops!” I’m not even sure what that means, and there’s a lot of gibberish dialogue like this, or just contrived dialogue, or just dense stumbly dialogue that doesn’t flow well at all. The effort is also hampered by some poor lettering, particularly the instances of the capital “E,” which are hard to read throughout. Many of the words are illog-ic-ally chop-ped of-f mids-tream a-nd cont-inued on th-e ne-xt li-ne because the word balloons are too narrow, or there’s just too damn much text fighting for real estate in the panels. By page two, I’d already written in my notes that this was unfortunately almost “unreadable,” but I tried to struggle through for you, dear readers! There are several pieces in the book, but I found it hard to determine which were inter-related, or which were just being inter-cut between non-related items. It’s confusing, and the numbering scheme doesn’t help. It’s not uncommon to see a piece labeled 1, then another piece following it, a piece labeled 2, another piece, 3, another piece, etc., so that you’re actually 6 pieces in by the time you see number 3. I think Szostek is a decent cartoonist in terms of just generating solitary figures and background ephemera, but gets absolutely lost in visual storytelling with no panel to panel causality whatsoever linking one shot to the next, rendering it impossible to figure out what’s going on. The stories range from a broken window to taking a dump to sex ed to ocean monsters to some sort of crude Adam & Eve riff(?) but who knows if they’re separate stories or all related. It’s mostly just lots of similar looking folks walking around aimlessly. In terms of humor, instead of “continued” at the end of one strip, the box contained three lines, with “cone,” “teen,” and “nude.” If that sounds good to you, check it out. If not, skip it. Grade D.

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2 Responses to PLANKTON CALAMITY by JH Szostek

  1. Rick says:

    “The stories range from a broken window to taking a dump to sex ed to ocean monsters to some sort of crude Adam & Eve riff”

    Now, see, that sounds pretty good to me!

  2. Jerzy says:

    To borrow from Thomas Gray – “ignorance is bliss”. To quote from the Marx Brothers – “Why a duck?”