Not so suffused with the temporary mania celebrated in previous issues, MBLEH! #3 offers indication of a maturing, more composed Bob Byrne. Still in evidence is that penchant for tapping a cruel humour rooted in the imaginative abuse of cute, bug-eyed cartoons with vulnerable, child-like characteristics; but also apparent is a thirst for achieving more than a sequence of quick-fix pay-offs saturated in pathos to sate the desensitised appetites of South Park junkies.
No more is the success of this development evident than in 'Negative Space' and in 'Mister Amperduke'. The former is occupied with a boy victimised for displaying a right side of the brain perception. His struggle to find understanding in an artisitic rather than autistic context is derailed by a mother intent on a correctional procedure that requires a surgical hell involving Tetris shapes. A minor structural collapse in the penultimate page of this story fails to halt one's sense of anticipation and involvement, and the thing reaches a satisfying, bitter-sweet conclusion.
In the allegorical 'Mister Amperduke', the serenity of a community of sentient, anthropoid creatures with Lego-men attire is interrupted by the arrival of three undressed strangers. Though the same beneath their Lego-men shells, the community refuse to accept the presence of these outsiders and set about rectifying matters. A 'simple' six-pager told in hypnotic 16 panel grids with affecting Chris Ware silence, 'Mister Amperduke' is quality, adult story-telling.
MBLEH! #3 is not without its flaws, though. At times derivative, disjointed and lacking succinctness of script, it is occasionally afflicted with sudden lapses in rhythm, but never falters in emanating a seductive gusto. There is a sense of the drunk finding his feet on a shifting surface; upright between awkward stumbles. Fortunatley Bob Byrne realises that cracking a head open on the pavement loses its comedic effect after a while. His mad buzz fades, and methinks his vision begins to clear.
US comics format, colour cover, 36 glossy pages for $2.95/3 euro. Available from
Clamnuts.com, Smallzone and Diamond; or direct from Bob Byrne at 43 Kilclare Gardens, Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24, Eire. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.