A new review of Beta Testing the Apocalypse, this time by The Comics Journal! As a reader of The Comics Journal since issue 148 (Charles Burns Interview. I miss the paper issues!), I’m pleased as punch. Here’s an excerpt:
[…] One of the pleasures of reading Beta Testing, as in other watershed collections like Caricature,Curses, or Everything Together, lies in watching a cartoonist become less mindful of his precursors, less rote in his treatment of subject matter, both freer and more assured. As the book progresses, Kaczynski sloughs off influence, just as his characters slip away from civilization. A breakthrough story like 2008’s “Million Year Boom” nearly brings the book to a halt halfway through with its impressive and authentic weirdness, yet still retains the stamp of millenarian systems novelists, still partakes of the old dead-eyed Clowesian aloofness. By the time we reach the concluding story, “The New”—at once an ode to modernist architecture and an allegory literalizing the decline of the west, created uniquely for this volume—Kaczynski’s layouts have exploded into space, cities and buildings splayed out on the page in startling and diagrammatic splashes.
Also, the review delves into the index, which is personally very satisfying. I’m always curious how people will react to it:
To his credit, Kaczynski acknowledges as much, duly footnoting his book’s debt to J.G. Ballard’s drowned worlds and concrete islands in an index that records other oblique references to Jane Jacobs and Slavoj Žižek—though entries for “Gibson, William,” or “DeLillo, Don” remain curiously absent. Kaczynski’s looming dread and sub/urban automata owe at least as much to White Noise as his vision of mechanized, entropic modernity does to The Atrocity Exhibition, not to mention his pontifications on gleaming consumerism: “Consider the modern bathroom. … How did this antiseptic room where excrement magically disappears come to be?” In such revelations of the science-fictional in the everyday—Kaczynski also invokes grain silos and utilitarian office buildings as totems of some alien race—the cartoonist conducts a kind of archaeology of the future from among our commonplace existence, in much the same way the Godard of Alphaville or the Tarkovsky of Stalkercalled forth the otherworldly moonscapes that have always been dormant in what our culture has erected or let fall into ruin.
William Gibson should’ve been there, but Don DeLillo I’ve never read. Here’s hoping there’s a second edition so I can tinker with the index some more!
The rest of the review is here.