I don’t review everything I read. Occasionally I’ll skip something that I just don’t like all that much, because I don’t feel inspired to write about it. That’s why you don’t often see me savaging something here, because it’s just too much of a pain in the butt to do so. I’ll do it, of course, especially if the book deserves it, but I don’t like to do it that often. But I also receive books for free in the mail, and I feel obligated to review them. So what happens when I get a book in the mail that I don’t like? Well, you get reviews like this one. I’ll try to be nice!
Recently the fine people at Secret Acres sent me Curio Cabinet by John Brodowski. It retails at $15, in case you’re wondering. Secret Acres has sent me some stuff in the past, and they always have some very weird, mind-bending stuff, but in the case of Curio Cabinet, it’s just not that good. It’s too bad.
Brodowski is actually a good artist, even though his style is a bit rough. He views the world with a slightly jaundiced eye, and the best part of this book is looking at “normal” events and watching as they twist into very different and weird things. In Brodowski’s world, Jason Voorhees wanders the woods having adventures, Death rides a motorcycle through a stained-glass window, and men dress up in squirrel outfits and disappear into the forest. He draws giant, fox-headed birds rising over mountains and terrorizing people, aquatic dinosaurs destroying medieval armies with radioactive breath, and a character getting knocked out of his car and completely out of the panel structure of the story by a giant paw. It’s a dizzying experience looking at this comic, because you never know what strange thing is going to happen next.
The problem is that Brodowski’s writing skills are nowhere near his art skills, and the book becomes a litany of random strangeness with very little to engage us. The very few narrative threads seem to follow men who are essentially arrested adolescents abandoning their lives and escaping, but without context, who cares? They come off as petulant children. Jason’s adventures in the forest are oddly compelling, as he searches for meaning and finds it in a standard if slightly unexpected place, but it’s not interesting enough to overcome the rest. Some of the more surreal stories – the yearning of an axe to be a human, for instance – are mildly amusing, but that’s pretty much it. There’s just nothing in the book that makes you think for more than a second or two, and nothing that throws you so off-kilter that you reconsider the universe in which we live. These are almost, but not quite, random images thrown together. The book is almost wordless, so Brodowski is counting on his pictures to tell his stories, and his storytelling skills in that regard – despite some nice drawings – aren’t good enough. Whenever I read a book like this, I just assume I’m not smart enough to “get it.” Well, I don’t get it.
I’m not going on about this further, because I feel terrible when I don’t like something that is so far off the grid and which will struggle to find an audience. Curio Cabinet is aptly titled, but the problem with curios is that once you turn away, you tend to forget all about them. That’s true about this book, unfortunately. I wish Brodowski the best with it, but it’s just not very good.
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