Black Charity (Archaia, $19.95)

Bal Speer (w/a)

I don't understand Black Charity.

I'm usually pretty good at allegory, metaphor and allusion, but I'm not sure Black Charity has any. I might be looking for it because the story doesn't seem very structured otherwise. Or maybe it does, but it's just too English for me to understand -- English as in England, with its own social mores and connections that I might not understand any more than a typical Pakistani office worker does Faulkner.

Here's the story: Our Hero is a spineless nebbish who moves into a new apartment because his long-time girlfriend has tired of him and kicked him out. I call him "spineless" because he keeps calling her and wheedling attention from her, despite her vague disgust, and because throughout the book he is always the victim and never does anything pro-active despite ... well, let's move on.

The first half of the book is more or less devoted to fleshing out Our Hero's new neighbors -- an old lady (who promptly dies), a blind guy (who appears to be important at first, but then disappears from the narrative), a dominatrix Our Hero can see through his window (and promptly fixates on, giving the artist lots of opportunities to show us kinky stuff), and most importantly, a conspiracy theorist/wacko who is violent, aggressive and gets really upset about people who let their dogs poop on the sidewalk. 

That's the first half of the book.

The second half takes some of these characters and throws them into a Black Helicopters Are Out To Get You narrative where some of these neighbors must go on the run from the government. Things do come to a conclusive end that ... 

... well, as I said before, I don't understand it. I think there might have been a political point there. Or maybe it was a shot at expressing nihilism. Or maybe it was just -- as the English say -- a laugh. Or maybe there was something more that I completely missed, I dunno.

I do understand the discrete elements of the story. And the storytelling, on an artistic level, is clear enough. Speer's art seems to attempt Mike Mignola, but ends up more Spain Rodriguez; whatever, I can tell what's going on. The story just doesn't seem to be structured in a way I understand, nor does it give me any characters I care about.

Again, I don't blame the creator -- I genuinely assume the story is something that would make people in England roar with laughter, or weep bitter tears, or something. But as a dimwit American, accustomed to linear stories, well ... 

I just don't understand Black Charity.



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