Comic: "Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron"
Published by: Other
Written by: Daniel Clowes
Artist: Daniel Clowes
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: Clay goes to a run down porno theatre. After the usual fare, he sees a strange short art film. One of the actors is an ex-girlfriend of Clays who left him some time ago without explanation. Clay borrows a car and sets out on an ill fated quest a quest to find the makers of the film, and through them, his ex. Along the way he runs afoul of a Manson like cult, conspiracy theorists, corrupt cops, a brutal, shirtless enforcer, and more than one freak before finding a kind of peace.
Review: Daniel Clowes is best known for the critically acclaimed graphic novel “Ghost World”, which, while odd enough, presents a straightforward, realistic narrative. While I’ve yet to read anything by Clowes I didn’t like, “Velvet Glove” is his most ambitious work, and my personal favorite. The stark, simple drawing style and rhythmic layout (many pages are divided into an even nine panel grid and each chapter opens with a three quarter page portrait) provide tension with the logic of dreams that drives the story. Like a long complicated nightmare, no matter how impossible the situations Clowes confronts, they are presented as real, puzzling but not abnormal. Early in the action, a friend complains he is “Having trouble with his eyes”. When we meet him, two wriggling crawfish-like tails dangle from his empty, black holes in his forehead. “It’s an infection of the eye sockets,” his friend explains, “The way they cure it is to remove the eyes and freeze ‘em and then they put these rare Asiatic sea crustaceans in there to eat out the bacteria.” A headless dog kept alive for years by injection, a hideously deformed waitress resembling a potato with artificial limbs are unsettling, but no more so than the stolen car or indifferent customer service Clay must deal with.
The story is tied to, perhaps a telling of, the old English ballad “Barbara Allen” about a man who dies of unrequited love, and his seemingly uncaring mistress who dies of grief soon afterwards. While Clay’s ex girlfriend is indeed dead, only his dismembered limbs lie in the grave next to hers. Clay, now a quadriplegic, lives on.
While decidedly not a book for those fond of understanding what happens and why at the end of a story, there’s far more here than meets the eye. Careful attention to small, background details answer some questions, but ask more.
Hilarious, upsetting and stark, “Velvet Glove” stayed with me much longer than Clowe’s early straight comedy or the deservedly famous “Ghost World”.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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