Part of the loose collective orbiting the USS Catastrophe website (see also Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch), Ted May stands apart from that crowd – hell, any crowd – by dint of the way his comics veer wildly between the deep and the dumbass. Often that switch occurs between one panel and the next. Sometimes it even happens within the confines of a single panel. May's peculiar genius lies in these tonal shifts never seeming forced or even out of the ordinary. You notice them, but immediately accept them, unconsciously telling yourself: it's fine; it's a Ted May comic.
Neruda originally saw print in the first issue of Jordan Crane's Non anthology in 1997. Eight years on, and sporting a spiffy new colour cover, the reprinted 20-page story stands up surprisingly well. May's modus operandi in his work appears to be: extract one of those half-formed, almost hallucinatory ideas or autistic nearly-puns that seem to circle endlessly in one's head, then follow it, stream of consciousness-style, through to its illogical conclusion. Neruda's take on this formula involves a commune of former hippies, the army, reporters, roleplayers, all sorts of government and corporate agents, the eponymous stone idol, and some choice utterances and incidental asides. The narrative performs leaps of logic like a racehorse gliding effortlessly over impossibly tall hedges; the comic as a whole is by turns funny, baffling and profound. As one of the ex-hippies succinctly puts it: "Fuckin' Neruda!"
Review by Nick Jones
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