In “The Eltingville Club” #1 by Evan Dorkin, the Eltingville Comic Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Role-Playing Club breaks up after Bill lets temporary stewardship of Joe’s shop go to his head. Mayhem ensues.
It’s the beginning of a finale, but “The Eltingville Club” #1 very accessible for readers who are not yet familiar with the characters from previous comic book appearances or the Adult Swim cartoon.
The exposition is smooth and gracefully introduces the Bill and Joe. Dorkin’s drawing style has thick, clean outlines which are well-suited to emphasize the mania of the characters and the minutia of comic shop environs. The scenario of Bill getting a gig at his favorite store is instantly funny, especially because of Dorkin’s over-the-top facial expressions for the megalomaniacal Bill.
Bill has a hilariously idealistic view of what it means to be a comic shop owner, imagining the job to be a cross between ruler of a fiefdom and being an A-list movie star. At first, the atmosphere is intense but naturalistic, but by the end of the book, enough violent shenanigans have transpired that “The Eltingville Club” #1 might remind readers of Dorkin’s previous work on “Milk and Cheese.”
Dorkin’s parody is sharp, and Joe’s shop is like a manual of what not do in business. It’s the stereotypically unfriendly comic shop from hell. All the nuances may not be that interesting to readers new to comics, but fans will recognize things they have seen or heard about. The most over-the-top, freakishly weird moment is the reaction to a “fake” geek girl, but even that scene is informed by attitudes that still exist in the industry.
The humor is uncomfortable, but not in a bad way. It’s effective and it depends on a delicate balance. Dorkin relies on both the detachment and the vanity of his intended audience. Readers must be willing to laugh at their own foibles, while being pretty sure that they themselves aren’t quite that bad.
“The Eltingville Club” #1 is comedy, a genre in which narration can take a back seat to plot, so it’s an extra pleasure that Dorkin’s storytelling is strong on pacing and suspense. The timeline is simple and linear, but the first half of the comic deepens the characterization for Bill and Joe, before re-introducing Pete, Jerry and Josh into the story. The escalation is taut with tension. Readers can feel that a confrontation is in the works, and during the throwdown, Dorkin doesn’t disappoint. If anything, it’s surprising how far he goes. The ending quickly brings readers back down to earth after the adrenaline rush for a sobering and even depressing conclusion, but one that will leave readers wondering when, how — even whether — the four will meet again.