And now, as demanded by literally nobody at all, I look at BLACK KISS 2 by Howard Victor Chaykin. No, no need to thank me. Your smiles are reward enough. Of course you’ll only be clicking on MORE! if you are Over 18 years of age. I can trust you, can't I? Anyway, this...
BLACK KISS 2 Story & Art Howard Victor Chaykin Lettering & Logo Ken Bruzenak Editor Thomas K (No relation) Special Effects Jed Dougherty Design Drew Gill Image Comics, Inc. $14.99USD (2013) Rated M+/Mature Plus
This book came in a modesty bag and, gentle reader, ten minutes after cracking the covers so did I. Hee-haw, hee-haw, heeeee-haw! No, but see how once you’ve got a distasteful image (wrinkly old me crouched and tugging like I’m trying to create fire with an empty sock) in your head it’s hard for you to focus and you are certainly inclined to view what follows as erring on the trivial. BLACK KISS 2 is far more than the sordid trappings might lead you to think, is what I’m saying there. It is true that the book came in a modesty bag because, and I don’t know if you heard about this, there was some kerfuffle over whether it would drive the populations of Canada and Great Britain doolally tap due to its mere presence on our shores. Why, to expose the simple child-like natives of Britain or Canada to this filth would be to risk priapic rampages turning our quiet high streets into open air abattoirs cum knocking shops. But I have a copy so clearly sanity prevailed. No, of course not, sanity’s having a hard time these days. No, in the end I don’t think it was actually banned. Rather than HM Customs rejecting the book, I believe, it just wasn’t submitted for their consideration after the first issue. So, the control of illicit materials is a lot like the Oscar selection process then. I could be wrong and maybe possession is actually illegal in this magical land. In which case I stood on the UK side of the US/UK border while someone in America held it up and turned the pages. Maybe I was in a boat; depends where the border is. Geography isn’t my strongpoint; that’s fan dancing. Look, whatever saves me from a lengthy period of imprisonment, prison would be hard on my piles. What I’m getting at is it took some time and it took some doing getting this book. And knock me down with a feathered sheath because it was worth it. Ayup, BLACK KISS 2 is VERY GOOD!
Yeah, I know, shocker! But, honestly, if Howard Victor Chaykin had laid a big brown egg I’d tell you. I don’t know much about porn comics as I don’t have many. That isn’t because I’m a buckle hatted Puritan, no, it’s the same reason I don’t have a roulette wheel in my living room, a bar next to the bed and the only crack in my sugarbowl is from when I dropped it pissed on my winnings. But I know my Howard Victor Chaykin comics and BLACK KISS 2 is VERY GOOD!
As well as being VERY GOOD! BLACK KISS 2 is, fittingly, a form of literary hermaphrodite; being both a prequel and a sequel to HVC’s 1988 black comedy BLACK KISS. The original slides neatly between chapters 9 and 10 to create comics’ first great sleaze epic. BLACK KISS 2’s a pretty explicit book. It is a book which contains scenes of violence, sexual violence, debauchery, debasement, casual racism, casual homophobia, casual saxophony, dressy sexism, profanity, jeans worn with a suit jacket and just a hint of scat for flavour. There might also be some interspecies romance but that depends on the lady having taken the horse out for a nice dinner beforehand. Otherwise it’s just plain old vanilla bestiality. All this is presented in the patented Prolific Period Howard Victor Chaykin style. Except he’s clearly had a bit more lead time on it, or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s his, either way his focused application has nipped and tucked his art nicely to produce a far tighter style than you might expect. The faces in the page anchoring insets are a particular high point, but I really don’t want to be saying Howard Victor Chaykin gives good face. When Howard Victor Chaykin straight up replicates his original BLACK KISS style for chapter 8 its position surrounded by the newer style stuff reveals that in the meantime, while barely altering his signature page routines, Howard Victor Chaykin’s managed to develop a rather good perceptual trick. Rather than the impression that each panel is like looking through a camera at a fixed set there’s an assured shift towards the impression of looking through eyes at a world. A damned and dirty world, but a world.
Sure, sure all the problems I have with HVC’s current work are here but far less so and sometimes they work to the book’s advantage. The biggest advantage the art has is that it’s in B&W. This means that the visual noise of all Chaykin’s textures is kept down to a muted hum. The lack of his modern toffee-apple glare colouring enhances the visual coherence of the art no end. Sometimes the application of textures is a bit skew-if but here this, together with the tendency of the pasted elements to contain too much visual information or sometimes seemingly spookily float creates a nicely off-kilter effect. Needless to say, his figure work and attention to period detail remains stirring. But I appear to have said it anyway. However, I remain unconvinced by Howard Victor Chaykin’s pasting of the same image further along successive panels to show movement. However, this is small beer indeed. This stuff doesn't need to be perfect it needs to work. And here Howard Victor Chaykin's art works like a (wet) dream. In BLACK KISS 2 Chaykin’s art is far stronger than in his work for hire stuff and Ken Bruzenak’s period specific text boxes and enduring mastery of the art of the letterer brings it up another level. As ever. Ken Bruzenak. Ken fucking Bruzenak. The Bruise!
Sadly, living in the real world (which isn’t where BLACK KISS 2 is set) I have been unable to find the time to go full LitCrit on BK2 but I can certainly say it is about something. Things, some of them, yes, that’s what it’s about. This is because Howard Victor Chaykin is sometimes quite explicit about his meaning but then he gets all coy and retracts before you get the full brunt of his point. As ever, draped like lacey underthings over every page, we have the dryly delivered Howard Victor Chaykin Revisionist History of These United States (“Some people say we stole the land from the Indians, well, fuck them in the neck with a rusty spoon…” You know the drill). When he isn’t riding his hobbyhorse about how America’s insecurities have led it to neglect its own rich cultural products he’s telling us how America was built by assholes. Honey to mine ears as ever. And all this is punctuated by his usual clipped and caustic dialogue. It’s good reading is what I’m saying there. Because it’s good writing. Funny as fuck, too.
Anyway, as far as I can tell it’s about fame, or the peculiarly democratized form of fame ushered in by the movie business. With the invention of movies even a Cotswolds boy could be a cowboy. It’s about fame and success and how they attract and how they devour. But in BLACK KISS 2 it’s a sick and shabby kind of success Chaykin's concerned with. An illusion, a reflection. Famous people crop up in BLACK KISS 2, but they are people whose fame is tainted by violence, from Lee Harvey Oswald to Andy Warhol; epoch defining events are brushed past (Aids,9/11) as the solipsistic cast wallow in their own base natures. Faces so deep in each other’s asses that their world (the world of BLACK KISS) becomes truncated and defined by their appetites to the exclusion of all else. Because BLACK KISS 2 doesn’t show us the world, it only shows a portion of the world. For all the glossy cars, spacious houses, natty clothes and cheeky bondage gear to exist there must be a world beyond that presented on these pages. A world where people are just getting on with their business; the regular world. BLACK KISS 2’s world ignores the mundane and is set squarely in a world of excess. A world where want is confused with need. A world populated by people who can’t control their appetites. Or rather, are unwilling to control their appetites. And it’s to these people the succubus, the vampire, the whatever the hell it is gravitates when the need to feed descends. And it seems wholly appropriate that this is so.
Timely, too. There’s a modern vogue for phrasing failure/success in terms of appetite. Repellently judgmental phrases are now part of the vocab of the vainglorious, “You weren’t hungry enough”, “You didn’t want it enough”. Such generosity of spirit is always expressed by those who were and, naturally, did of course. Such depths of empathy. Yes, fame costs as someone in leg warmers once said and when Beverley shows up is where you start paying. And at the last, in the final chapters, in a voice so resigned and heavy with a history of experience (so heavy, so resigned it must, it just must, sound just like William Holden’s in Sunset Blvd.) Cass Pollack (AKA HVC) lays it all out. Like a body on a slab. Because, you know what? BLACK KISS 2’s about the same thing all HVC’s stuff is about. It's about defining your worth by your work and not by anyone else's opinion of same. It's about having some self re-cocking-spect. It’s about learning to accommodate your appetites before they destroy you. He’s just changed the focus from the usual Chaykin avatar (Cass) to the villain. A new twist on an old theme. An old theme with a new twist. No wonder Chaykin loves jazz. Jazzzzzzzzzzzz, babies. Jazzzzzzzzzzzz. This time out then, in a startlingly optimistic (that’s optimistic for BLACK KISS) climax both “Chaykin” and the bad gal/guy have experienced moments of clarity which entitle them to a happy ending. They aren’t exactly going to save each other but at least everybody else will be safe from them. And that’s about as happy an ending as there ever could be in the world of BLACK KISS 2. Which is VERY GOOD!
And like HVC’s VHS copy of Raiders Of The Lost Ass – I’m gone!
This week your safe word was – COMICS!!!