I first heard of the legendary CBGB music club in New York through comics –specifically Evan Dorkin and Kyle Baker’s “Critics at Large” strips — so the idea of a comic mini-series centered around the now-closed venue seemed like a natural. The mini-series on a whole has turned out some good stories (especially the story written by Ana Matronic from the Scissor Sisters in “CBGB” #2), so it’s with that in mind that I found myself slightly disappointed with the new issue.
I think the big problem is that the lead story by Kim Krizan and Toby Cypress overstays its welcome. It’s fairly predictable, as three present-day teens find mysterious cave drawings that tell the story from prehistoric times when three teens are outcast from their various tribes because of their love of music and dancing. As the three eventually meet, the outcome is fairly obvious, but at fourteen pages it drags on a bit too long. Krizan’s story doesn’t have a bad idea, but by the time the third teen is kicked out of his tribe in the exact same sequence as the first two, well, it’s too much. Still, Cypress’s graffiti shaped art is a smart fit for a story that’s supposed to be told through wall paintings, and it’s got a nice energy about it.
Much more my speed, though, is the back-up story involving a professor trying to figure out what advice he should give to a student that wants to drop out and take his band on the road. It’s a clever story that starts off moving in a realistic direction, then takes an unexpected swerve halfway through. Robert Steven Williams and Louise Staley simultaneously give us the expected conclusion with the uplifting message and also make it fun, keeping it from becoming too saccharine. Giorgio Pontrelli’s art is cartoonish and blocky in a way that reminds me of artists like Marc Hempel, and it’s another good match for the script. I love the way Pontrelli draws the professor to look old in a distinguished yet slightly with-it fashion; it makes more sense that his student would ask him for advice because he doesn’t seem like an old stick-in-the-mud (the default look for most college professors over the age of 40 in comics) and in general it’s an energetic, almost youthful looking finished product.
“CBGB” #3 isn’t the strongest issue to date, but even then its backup story ultimately redeems it. I may have never made my own pilgrimage to the real CBGB, so I guess it’s apt that my most recent experience with the club is just like my first one, in the pages of a comic book.