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.
Whoof - child molestation, murder, and desecration, generally in that order. THAT is the name of the game for this rather unexpected (can I say that? That this book is unexpected? Ever? As in "I didn't see the fact that I wouldn't see the what that came next would be coming?" Haven't I learned that this is straight-on par fer the sandy dry dessicated course?) issue #21, titled "The Good Uncle".
I thought that was Erwin Rommel on the cover (what a striking cover, too, eh?), the Desert Fox himself, but thankfully no, the cover model is a new character introduced (and exuented) in this very issue, there to basically explore a rather squirm-inducing topic. For that, it's memorable, as this is a hotter topic to fan the flames than the more general topics of war, humanity, tolerance, bigotry, sexuality, etc. I suppose that's the unexpected part, this is the first time quite so specific an issue has been raised as sole focus of an entire chapter. Which isn't to say creator Donna Barr doesn't toss in male mothering instinct, her usual up-close dissection of the differences between cultures and resolving issues even in the face of ignorance and unavoidable bigotry. But past DP books have wheeled between sub-plots and side tracks, while "The Good Uncle" travels a very straight and arrow-shaped path, as thought the subject demanded a very focused, single-child nurture.
The first half flows well, and offers readers a marvelous number of scenes involving an enlisted regiment of dirty, lonely, aimless soldiers taking care of a little leibchen, the son of Pfirsich. Then comes the arrival of LeutnantDoktorLindemann, a pediatrician who's come to lavish special, prim, professional attention on Pfirsich's boy. Soon, however, the locals arrive crying for justice, looking for a killer of their children! A search for the suspect in on, and when they're found the question still remains of just what to do with them.
It's a heady brew, The Good Uncle is, though it does a commendable job with sizing up the justifications of man's behaviors, and drawing distinctions between "deviant" ones. And the ENDING!!! With a one-two punch of horrific absurdity, Barr yanks the whole shebang to a climax and epilogue that would have immediately been rejected by any editor with content authority. Not that they're offensive (is anything, really, in a Barr book? It's her most signature talent - offensive material that never IS offensive when she writes about it), but the ending is classic Barr - entirely random and not how anyone else would have done it, but wholly fitting nevertheless.
One final thing that makes #21 stand out - A LETTER'S PAGE!!! Yes, after having nearly none for quite some time, AEON gave Donna 10 whopping pages to go all Dave Sim/Erik Larsen with her fans, printing letter after letter longer than some essays and responding in kind. It's was fascinating to get a nice lump of historical perspective, reading letters concerned with the book's hiatus (when Donna took time off to produce the DP musical) and then letters deciphering the issues much as I'm doing now on this blog. Different takes, different opinions, good to read, awesome to read in fact.
THE GOOD UNCLE is an issue I'll likely think of long into the future, one of those that may become signature when I consider the series in retrospect. But it's also, thus far, an oddity - less a pot pourri than a deliberation. But a deliberation done DP style, which makes it oh-so-good. --Dave B.