Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Man With No Libido

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of The Man With No Libido (Quiet Hell, 2013).

There was an occasion about a decade back, when I re-entered the dating pool after a marriage had kept me out of it for a long time, and I made the horrible one-time mistake of calling myself a nice guy. What a colossal error that was. I had no idea that in my absence, the term had been co-opted by... well, it's hard to say, really. Evidently, there might have been / might still be a faction that suggests that simple, respectful kindheartedness should find some kind of reward, and some other faction that suggests that point of view leads to entitlement and creepiness. It's such a heated and ugly debate that I found a simple answer: the next person who called me "nice," I bloodied his lip.

Mitch, the hero of the paperback graphic novel The Man With No Libido, has a slightly more extreme answer: he goes in for a scientific experiment, has his sex drive removed and loses any interest in either wooing or being wooed. He then becomes the poster boy for a new craze of fellows permanently removing themselves from the dating scene. Let those lousy dames suffer for overlooking them for so long!

The comic, written by Jason Browne and drawn with flair by Steve Kearney, suffers from taking just one side of the argument, and not taking it far enough, but what it does present is a very silly and very amusing romp. Their outfit, Quiet Hell, is very much a small press concern, and the unfortunate misspellings in the captions - "you're" and "completely" confound the letterer - serve as a reminder that the creators are not quite ready for prime time. But the witty story and Kearney's artwork, with evident inspiration from Phil Foglio, are entertaining and promise even better things the next time out.

I really enjoyed Mitch's parade of awful dates, and there's a great recurring gag with a friend named Al whose video gaming cannot be interrupted. The consequences of the sexless revolution are also unpredictable and very funny, but also a little shorter than I'd like, leaving me curious about what we didn't see. One of Mitch's friends is incensed by his surgery, with amusing results, and another takes advantage of so many other fellows jumping out of the pool, with even more amusing results, but I wanted to see more.

What I liked most, however, was the very subtle touch behind the script. If the book disappoints by not finding room to explore the funny ramifications of its setup, it's assured and confident in not hammering quiet points. Mitch, at the close of the first disastrous date, displays exactly the same type of entitlement that critics of "Nice Guys" claim that people like him always do. This girl is a riot, the most emotionally horrifying person ever, and Mitch just doesn't see or understand that. You look at this setup just a little more closely and learn that the experiment doesn't really remove anything. Rather, the machine inserts a backbone. It's a very cute twist, and cleverly underplayed beneath the veneer of slapstick comedy.

In short, it's good fun that leaves me curious what the creators will try next, and don't anybody mistake my sweetness for being nice. Certainly worth a look, and recommended for older readers.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review. If you'd like to see your comics or detective fiction featured here, send me an email.

No comments: