Writer / Artist
Zonzo review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Fantagraphics Books - 978-1-60699-985-1
  • Release date: 2017
  • UPC: 9781606999851
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Spanish creator Joan Cornellà’s worldview is one of the bleakest ever presented in comics, on a level with Ivan Brunetti at his most depressing. His single page gags are presented by simple figures painted in bright colours, the type of eye-catching illustration found in books for very young children, contrasting the content, which is anything but. It’s a rare graphic novel where it can be claimed that every page will possibly offend someone, but this collection manages it, with the sample page one of few even vaguely suitable for a presentation to a general audience accompanying a review. It features no sexual content, bodily mutilation or other extreme violence.

That gag also represents a second aspect of Cornellà’s work, a sort of surrealism making the strip itself work, but without a traditional punchline. The toying with form is interesting the first couple of times, but when repeated with the sleight of hand being the only purpose, the charm is lost. It’s a technique Cornellà uses occasionally, rather than throughout, where injury, mutilation and death are the preoccupations.

The deceptive illustration slightly mitigates a violent nihilism that even Johnny Ryan might think twice about, which approaches the capacity to offend of 1970s French cartoonist Marc Reiser, but whereas Reiser generally had a point to make beyond the gag, Cornellà doesn’t. An example: A man watching TV sees a starving black child with typically distended belly. He’s upset, flies to Africa, and pulls a basketball from the child’s stomach, with plenty of accompanying blood, as there is in so many of the strips. The child is delighted. Is this dangerous challenging of Western preconceptions, an uncompromising artistic vision, or plain offensive with no redeeming qualities? On occasion, such as the cover gag, Cornellà achieves a barren, hollow laugh, but an incessant parade of jokes about mutilation and murder separated only by the occasional surrealistic strip is wearing, and ultimately not funny at all.