Review by Frank Plowright
It’s a matter of record that Fantagraphics is one ornery publisher. It’s not without some justification that the company history is titled We Told You So, and they’ve stuck to their guns in publishing what they see as visceral, important or unique. Yet sometimes they issue something so wilfully without any seeming merit, it’s puzzling. Welcome to In Christ There is No East or West, which in his handwritten indicia Mike Taylor has attributed to F.U. Publishing.
With its hallucinogenic sequences and social concerns, In Christ There is No East or West is a spiritual successor to the Underground comics of the 1970s, except nowhere near as well drawn. Taking his title from an obscure hymn, Taylor begins with his protagonist having a form of panic attack before sending him on a spiritual quest after he’s been instructed to drop his keys and phone down a drain. Taylor’s like the possessed guy ranting at you on the street corner, screaming that progress and technology is a con as it continually divorces us from our humanity. It’s a treatise illustrated piecemeal, in places in the most basic fashion, as if scribbled on the back of a pile of flyers from the local takeaway, with the art veering from primitive to abstract. This, though is a deliberately off-putting and confrontational style, as Taylor’s equally capable of slipping in fine art homages.
By the finale, Adam has worked his way toward God via experiences that have opened his mind, and in an allegorical ending he’s deposited back on Earth, given a spiritual rebirth. Searching the hymn lyrics offers no greater clues to intent. That’s a plea for tolerance, which doesn’t work its way into Taylor’s wide-ranging, if scattershot, concerns. In Christ There is No East or West certainly ticks the visceral and unique boxes for Fantagraphics, but at $25 you’re going to have to be incredibly open-minded to have your expectations met by anything other than the first rate design.