Chester 5000

Zine Scene: Chester 5000

Chester 5000Jess Fink: Chester 5000 (Top Shelf, 6/7/11, $14.95)

Adorable, charming, Victorian, romantic, endorsed by Alan Moore — these are not the words that generally are used to describe a pornographic comic book.  However, Jess Fink’s silent-movie-style erotic graphic novel is all of those, and it even features a robot, in a sci-fi twist.

Chester begins with the marriage of a young man and woman, and their disparity in bedroom tactics is immediately apparent.  Unfortunately, the young wife is completely insatiable in the bedroom, and the husband is a bit of a prude, so her husband constructs a sex-bot, Chester, to perform his duties while he tends to work.  The romantic and charming Chester does a better job than expected, however; the wife soon falls in love with him and sneaks off to have sex with the robot each day after her husband leaves.

Of course, they are caught, and the husband sells Chester to another woman.  Chester and the wife pine for each other, and in one great scene, Chester and the husband fight for her love with mechanical attachments and a large hammer, respectively.  Eventually, the husband learns the error of his ways, as well as his love for the woman who bought his robot, and, well, more sex ensues.

Night Animals

Zine Scene: Night Animals

Night AnimalsBrecht Evens: Night Animals (Top Shelf, March 2011, $7.95)

Equal parts Edward Gorey and Where the Wild Things Are — surreal and yet completely honest — the newest work by Belgian graphic novelist Brecht Evens makes one hell of an impression without saying anything at all.

Night Animals, described on its title page as “a diptych about what rushes through the bushes,” charms with two very different wordless stories. In the first, a man waits to meet a blind date and is compelled to search for her through the sewers and underground, encountering a vast array of monsters that live there on his way. The second follows a young girl as she undergoes puberty (all in one day) and is later kidnapped by similar monsters for a wild party in the woods that soon turns sinister.

The first story, “Blind Date,” playfully recasts the uncertainty of waiting for an unknown woman into an epic quest involving sewer diving, spelunking, and fending off various beasts. Ultimately light and funny, it contrasts sharply with the second story’s comparative darkness. In “Bad Friends,” a young girl gets her first period during the school day, and while feeling ashamed later at home, is carried off by monsters. A bacchanal ensues in the forest, celebrating her new-found womanhood, but the monsters’ dark intentions leave the reader with a final sense of dread.

It seems fitting to use the word “phantasmagoric” for Evens’ sprawling, intricate visuals, considering his debt to the many artists that the label has also been applied to, and his obvious debt to most of them. His pen drawings obviously recall Gorey, as mentioned, or Tim Burton’s doodles, and even some more creative children’s books (although a celebration of a young woman’s first period would likely not be found in most of those).

Night Animals