Insect Bath #1
So here’s a rag that’s really a hodgepodge of styles. There’re a bunch of stories in here and each artist comes to this book slinging their ink their own way. The comic opens on the inside front cover with a simply drawn, single page intro to the anthology that sets the pace and pulls the reader into this black and white purgatory that is the twisted horrific world of Insect Bath. Then we’re off on a hair raising, trippy tale from +Zach Hazard Vaupen, The Hair Cuts Back. Zach’s story is a violently bizarre take on haircuts that’s crudely drawn with bold lines and will cause the reader to strain to decipher exactly what each panel reveals. Following that +sammy harkham offers up Nightmare. This story is illustrated in a much more accessible style that readers will appreciate as they continue their journey, but the theme of despair carries over from the first story and builds here. Later we’re confronted with +Matthew Thurber's Race Does Not Exist and slapped in the face with lethal differences, gruesome results from seemingly insignificant interracial interactions, and common preconceived biases. Again, this story is presented in a more traditional style while persisting in moving the theme of death and horror forward. Max Clotfelter Plunges us into the purposefully disgusting I Eat Mold For A Living in which we wander the streets with a guy that’s had enough and decides to drink his problems away. This leads him to spiritual and physical changes, but he soon discovers no matter how much he changes the world remains the same. The art in this piece is full of line work with lots of detail, a real throwback to the underground scene. Alex Delaney’s All God's Creatures takes us into the home of a lonely, conceited man concerned only with his own sexual gratification while displaying total detest for all others. This entry in the comic is drawn with the most representational art, still not fitting inside the mainstream model, but easily within the more polished indie model. Juliack's Throw Her Against The Walls weaves images and text together to produce an unraveling stream of detailed sequential art. I found myself turning the pages around 360 degrees trying to fully comprehend what I was looking at and reading. I don’t know that I ever made sense of it entirely, but I liked what I saw because it challenged me as a viewer to discern meaning rather than serve it to me to consume without thought. Eamon Espey's untitled and silent contribution takes on a dreamlike quality made up of images that remind me of prints from folksy woodcuts that would be produced by a hippy commune living somewhere in the unseen rural wilderness that exist between the pages of Insect Bath. I can’t really describe the visual story, but it works as a surreal respite in the otherwise brutal storytelling that flows between the covers. And Jason T. Miles’ pages offer insight into how this comic came to be and how death factored directly into its creation. The text in this piece drives this story that seems slightly out of sync with the rest of the comic, but brings a personal touch that adds weight to the overall comic.
The feeling I got while reading Insect Bath and even more so on reflection after reading it, is that this comic is an unpleasant dream captured on paper. It begins with an uncomfortable innocence that quickly descends into disturbing depths of nihilistic art and old-school underground comix styles that intertwine to take the reader on a trippy, sometimes disgusting, dreamlike ride through a nightmarish landscape complete with vivid stories and images that are clearly represented and understood, while at the same time presenting other stories and images that are elusive and confusing. This is an underground comix that's not afraid to offend, and for me that makes it a great read!
Get your copy through Fantagraphics here: Insect Bath #1