Novelist, comic book writer, and also comic book reviewer for www.BrokenFrontier.com, also website marketing coach for the Online Marketing Solutions company Push Traffic dot com. Incidentally, I am also the worst writer in the world.
We got us a double bill today - I'm passing on reviewing THE DESERT PEACH #18 until I've had the chance to listen to the soundtrack a few more times, plus finish reading the libretto. (DP #18 wasn't a DP comic as such, but a reprint of THE DESERT PEACH: THE MUSICAL Program, plus lots of behind-the-scenes accouterments). I'll hit #18 with a proper review alongside a full review of the musical when the time comes. But for now...
The Desert Peach #19: "Self-Propelled Target"
"Self-Propelled Target" is the name of this one - the big return of the book after the huge climax/wedding-of-Udo in ish #17, and also it seems the title was shuffled from MU PRESS over to AEON STUDIOS with this installment, where it would remain until issue #25, after which creator Donna Barr would launch her own (and to this day still kicking) publishing gambit, A FINE LINE PRESS. When I interview the lady in the near future, I'll have to ask her about all the transitions and manifestations of this book, but for now, all I know is that the title changed publishing hands, and not for any discernible reason.
But sticking with the last two MU issues, #19 consists of a meaty 44 pages of story. Oddly, Udo'smarriage isn't brought up at all, even though it was the seminal event of the book's run to date. Instead we're offered a crazy tale of pranks gone awry - OberstPfirsichRommell is feeling under the weather (stomach problems that would plague him to the end of the NEXT issue!), and in his discomfort he allows himself to poorly phrase a request to Udo that yanks open a loophole to allow his nemesis, Kjars, to go at each other no-holds-barred. It begins Udo rupturing the decaying stomach juices of a deceased body while on grave-digging duty, and allowing the effluvia to douse both Kjarsand (by accident) Pfirsich. This does nothing but exacerbate the poor Oberst's delicate, waning constitution. This leads him to camp out in the outhouse, while Udo and Kjars both pursue parallel schemes of trickster-like schenannigans which will once again climax with poor Pfirsich caught in the middle.
This issue is, in a word, "disgusting". I'll leave it at that, and warn that those with a low threshold for potty humor and low-brow brown humor need not apply. The pranks go WAY over the top ant he results are extraordinarily nauseating if thought upon too explicitly. Which isn't to say this isn't a WONDERFULLY entertaining thing, just that it's also quite disturbing. The Wyle E. Coyote essence of the pranks is inspired, and the sheer mechanical clockwork genius of how the story comes crashing together into a tight, horrific climax is superb. That said, this is mostly a shtick-y episode, humorous and outlandish but not really concerned with advancing or searching the intricacies of the characters. This one is throwaway, in a sense, but it's also a perfect stand-alone story, more so than usual, as nothing before or after really enters into it.
Donna art is electric, some of the best yet - the sh*tstorm of a finale is brilliantly depicted, and all the whirlwind antics impressively captured and fluidly woven panel to panel.
STORY - 7/10 (incredible execution, some things almost out-of-character crazy though)
ART - 9/10 (Really tight layout and flow, detailed and dynamic)
IMPORTANCE - (EDITED [see comments below]) 8/10 (mostly stand-alone, but Pfirsich's sickness pays off in next issue #20, AND effects Kjars in #26 in a major way! )
TOTAL SCORE - 8 And then comes...
The Desert Peach #20: "Fever Dream"
Pfirsich's health problems come to a head as he lay, seemingly, at death's door. Udo (the one most responsible with last issue's pranks) paces and frets, and has the dear ear of Pfirsich's ego-heavy lover Rosen to commiserate with. This leads to Rosen relating the day he first met Pfirsich in German-occupied France, and then Udo spinning a tale of the same, and apparently the two events happened close together. This offers creator Donna Barr the opportunity to (at last!) break out with a very, intensely graphic and magnificently choreographed sex scene. Rosen may be a stud, but he's new to the guy-on-guy stuff (the beauty of Pfirsich his sudden inspiration!) and so Barr allows the somewhat awkwardness of the two trying to literally feel the other out to coincide with an audience that hasn't yet had the pleasure of a Desert Peach comic sliding quite so emphatically into the sex stuff.
But here it be, in all its visceral, funny, eye-popping and unexpectedly heart-warming glory. In usual Barr fashion, Donna somehow depicts an explicit act of sex, and not a mainstream one at that, and manages to make it charm the pants off a Hellfire preacher. Rosen and Pfirsich never seemed so real, human, and yet larger than life as they do in this extended and brilliant flashback.
Then Udo's story waxes poetic on his hiding his Jewishness while being nonetheless bigoted toward gays, and how his first meeting with Pfirsich and the braggart Rosen slapped his hypocritical double-standard beliefs into second thoughts and serious re-thinks.
Barr's art gets a touch more refined and polished for this semi-anatomy lesson yarn, and the result is a GORGEOUS issue of DP. The story is perhaps the most character-centric of the entire run, and gives Rosen a personality he sorely needed to bring his relationship with Pfirsich into glittering light. And Udo's less enlightened past also grants his character a 3-D real world sensibility that lets the reader love him all the more.
After the lightness of substance of #19, "Fever Dream" gives readers a dense and heady package of human beings being human in absolute and definitively human ways, puritanism be damned.
STORY - 10/10 (perfect blend of daring and charming, character and plot)
ART - 10/10 (like lightening striking wood, inordinate detail and crazed energy alike)
IMPORTANCE - 10/10 (two major characters get major moments of their lives told)