A CRACK IN THE SHELL #2
I've no inkling with regards the source of inspiration for this title - perhaps a derivation best kept unknown - but I do know that Leonard Cohen sings of there being 'a crack in everything - that's how the light gets in'.
Un/fortunately the crack in this shell is minor and there is little on offer here of appeal to those who already subject day-to-day living to a revealing light through rejection of convenient ignorance and embraced myopia. However, for those obtuse beyond grasping a glimmer of pointlessness in their darkened reality, this publication may prove a gentle enough step on the road to enlightenment!
In the three page collection of 'Wage Slave' newspaper style strips, diluted themes of existentialism and helplessness in the face of societal expectation and enforced routine are played out by a once cuddly toy bear, now wearied with the cynicism of experience and a work/drink/hash prompted lethargy. (I added the hash bit myself, and dedicate it to the Barr bloke and sibling!) Sometimes purposely unamusing, these slice-of-life bursts aren't quite substantial enough to be satisfying, but are well realised and competently crafted. A touch more care devoted to the chore of lettering could further add the polish required for syndication.
Less worthwhile, but technically equally impressive, the one page 'dole mole' offers nothing new in its 'Buddy Bradley' tale of slacker inactivity, but succeeds well in quietly capturing the laid back resignation of a generation-x character with damning Beatles 'Let It Be' poster on wall.
Two more one pagers 'The Wankers At Work' and 'Gombeen' continue the powerless tone of the publication, this time shedding some light on boy/girl interaction with blunt blows of humour that work well; and the back page is devoted to 'Whelan's Indie Bingo', an observational text piece that logically draws parallels between bingo and night-clubbing at a certain Dublin haunt!
However, the bulk of A CRACK IN THE SHELL is taken with the flimsy prose short story 'Sam McMac's Love-Plan' and the ambitious comic strip 'Touched' - five and six page efforts respectively. Though reasonably well-crafted and vaguely amusing at times, 'Love Plan' lacks substance and so desperately seeks to be funny that it can alone be judged on its ability to prompt laughter in response. It fails.
In contrast, 'Touched' is an awkward kind of 'Ghost World' told through the Chris Ware time/space story-telling method. Gentle in its execution, yet impressively striving to achieve more than the easy option of a common, flat comics work, on the whole it is not exactly successful, but is deserving of praise for its attempt to provoke emotional response and resonance through the capture of mood and tone. And again with further exploration of the theme of what I often refer to as 'powerlessmess', makes for a shining addition to this mostly symbiotic collection.
Ultimately A CRACK IN THE SHELL #2 lacks the diversity of its previous issue, but possesses endearing focus and unassuming subversion, and for a pound is a sound purchase and cheap means of widening your crack!
Available from Phil at 141 St Declans Road, Marino, Dublin 3, Ireland. (Or first check ordering details with firstname.lastname@example.org or with email@example.com).
(Review by John Robbins)