Unfolding: 1-800-MICE #4

Posted by on May 22nd, 2010 at 5:16 AM

Rob reviews the fourth issue of Matthew Thurber’s unhinged series, 1-800-MICE (Picturebox).

As I noted in my review of the first three issues of 1-800-MICE, Matthew Thurber’s series is one of the great (if relatively unknown) achievements in comics over the past decade.  It’s a comic that acknowledges and distills any number of influences without being beholden to any singular influence.  It’s a comic that mixes and matches genres, as comedy and horror in particular frequently fuse into unforgettable and bewildering images.  It’s a sprawling epic with over a dozen key characters.  It’s a comic that mixes primitivist and grotesque character design with fluid page composition.

It’s also a comic that has multiple plot threads weaving in and out of each other, sometimes to bewildering effect.  This is a comic book that merits multiple readings so as to enable one to more easily follow these threads through whipcrack-quick transitions.  Every issue of the series follows a rising and falling wave pattern where a scene of pure farce is followed by a sense of rising dread, and then back to farce.  Throughout, Thurber employs a simple and cartoony line so as to produce a slightly unreal, almost psychedelic effect that disorients the reader.  However, Thurber’s control over his line and page never lets things spiral out of control into incoherency, nor is there ever a sense that he’s showing off on the page just because he can.  There’s simply a lot of information to process on his pages.

This issue resolves one issue of dread, as an arranged marriage designed to unite the interests of the humans and trees of Volcano City was wrecked by terrorists in the most over-the-top manner possible: ramming through a gate with the aid of acid jets and then blowing up the bride and groom.  On the other hand, dread is further ratcheted up with the character of Groomfiend the mouse messenger, whose addiction to the strange drug creosote may be warping his sense of reality even as he’s trying to help his longtime friend.  He’s the recipient of a hilarious message from the corporation he works for, which tries to “console” its workers by comparing the recent deaths of other workers to merely losing a finger off a hand, so that “eventually, it will seem that the deaths, in a sense, did not occur.”

The other main plot thread in this issue follows Peace Punk, a young guy whose expertise with creating viral internet videos leads him to take a job with one of the series’ principal antagonists.  Of course, given the tone of this comic, that antagonist (the omnipresent and seemingly benevolent Aunty Lakeford) reveals that she takes the time to prank call one of the other antagonists.  The issue ends with that other foe (the Shogun of Los Angeles) ranting at the inhabitants of “charming harbor town” Los Angeles and destroying its protector, the giant floating head of Charlie Chaplin.

Thurber isn’t afraid to bring in new elements into his series while still juggling unresolved plot elements.  1-800-MICE is a whirlwind of far-out concepts, acidic satire, funny drawings, action, and horror that is somehow perfectly balanced.  Each new issue makes the tapestry of the series all the more rich and complex, even as the plot is unraveled and characters’ backstories are fleshed-out.  Despite its initial outsider-art veneer, this is a series than nearly any reader of comics can latch onto and enjoy, if they pay attention.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.