Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 08.01.2012 – Black Kiss 2 #1

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146
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Avg Rating: 3.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.1%
 
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Black Kiss II_1_Full
Story by Howard Chaykin
Art by Howard Chaykin
Cover by Howard Chaykin

Size: 20 pages
Price: 2.99

WARNING: This comic is for Mature audiences and this review will refer to the fact that Black Kiss 2 #1 is definitely not an all ages comic.

For many of you, the selection of Black Kiss 2 #1 will be a bit confounding.  Many of you will complain about not really “getting” Howard Chaykin and others will object to the sexually explicit content within the book. And that’s totally fine. I completely get and could see why many people would object to Black Kiss 2 #1, and to be perfectly honest, that’s one of the reasons why I absolutely adored this book.

For those who aren’t aware of the legacy of Black Kiss and Howard Chaykin, let me give you a little bit of a history lesson. You see, back in the 1980s, believe it or not, the world was a pretty screwed up place (although, I guess the more things change, the more things stay the same).  One of the biggest conflicts within our society here in America was around the concept of censorship and content “decency.”  You had groups like the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) targeting musical acts that they felt were indecent and were fighting for a ratings system to help regulate an industry that they felt was damaging to children and families. After a famous senate hearing featuring testimony from Frank Zappa, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and, of all people, John Denver, much of the PMRC’s threats were held at bay, but still helped to establish the “explicit” label we saw affixed to albums in the late 1980s and 1990s.  This was the atmosphere of the 1980s as parents groups and legal action was being looked at across many forms of media, from music all the way to comics.  In 1988, in response to a movement towards bringing a ratings system to comics, Howard Chaykin, after success with his comic American Flagg!  set out to make a comic that was filled with sex, violence and humor to prove a point.  Depicting vampires in Hollywood (hmmm, seems to be a recent familiar topic in American Vampire too), that comic was Black Kiss and very quickly became one of the independent gems of the 1980s comics scene.

So now, fast forward 24 years to today, where I’m holding Black Kiss 2 #1 in my hands.  I never thought we’d ever see another Black Kiss ever again. While it served it’s purpose in the support of free speech and free expression in the 1980s, what started out as comic to prove a point, became one of Chaykin’s finest work of his career. Putting aside the sexual content and the violence, I would imagine a creator like Chaykin would be hesitant to revisit such a politically charged book.  But if you know anything about Howard Chaykin, if you’ve seen him at cons or had any interactions with him, you know that the man is anything but hesitant and nothing will stand in his way of telling a story once he’s got one in his head.

What I loved about Black Kiss 2 #1 is that it felt dangerous. It reminded me of the great age of independent comics of over 20 years ago. These were comics you would hear about in comic shops or amongst friends. Someone would have gotten their hands on a copy from a friend or older sibling or at a con and they would get passed around or you would have to work to hunt down a copy.   These weren’t Marvel or DC Comics, and once you read them, they felt different. Foreign. Dangerous.  Comics like Cerebus, American Flagg!, Mister X, The Crow, and Black Kiss.  It’s amazing how just within 3 pages of Black Kiss 2 #1, I was immediately transported back to those days of discovering comics that weren’t the ones with big colorful super heroes.

To describe and recant the events of Black Kiss 2 #1 would almost be doing it an injustice. Upon opening it, once I got over that nostalgic rush for independent comics of years gone by, I was struck by the setting of New York City in 1906.  Through frank and aggressive imagery, Chaykin lays down what will be the mission statement for this comic as Chaykin told USA Today,  ”sex, death and the movies.”  Chaykin draws the relationship between entertainment and the influence and affect it has on it’s audience in an overly dramatic fashion, but makes his point about as cleanly as you could.  Then in the second chapter of the issue, we move forward to a tale of sex, class struggles and hopes and dreams, all aboard the Titanic.  Yes, you read that correctly, The Titanic.

Howard Chaykin is one of those creators who I like to refer to as: a mad genius.

Artistically, Chaykin’s art is at the top of his game. His use of black and white as a color palette should be taught in comic book making classes.  His storytelling is masterful, particularly the use of juxtaposition within chapter one, as the movie going audience reacts to the film they are watching, all the while while narration guides the reader through the journey that will be shocking and entertaining at the same time. His cartooning bounces off the page form panel to panel, as the horrific reactions stand out on the masterfully rendered backgrounds.  Do yourself a favor, ignore the words and the penises and just look at the backgrounds. Then look at the foreground. For those of you who don’t get why we like Chaykin’s art so much, this book serves as a primer better than any in recent memory.

Oh yeah, it’s dirty.  I mean, really, really dirty.  But that’s the point.

Art is meant to be challenging and the best art challenges you in ways you never thought you could be challenged.  Chaykin’s use of sexuality and violence is shocking, but it’s not being done for shock value.  The man doesn’t set out to just depict the most dirty scenario he can think of.  It’s the strategic use of shocking imagery and dramatic effect that work to help sustain the narrative.  Chaykin is our guide on a wild journey through our country’s history with sex and death as the main points of interest. When you look around at our world, it’s filled with imagery of sex and death, so much so that we become more and more desensitized to it all.  It takes alot to shock even me these days, and if you ask me, that’s part of the point that Chaykin is making with Black Kiss 2 and I can’t wait to see where this goes.

Black Kiss 2 #1 isn’t a comic for everyone. It’s definitely not for children or the faint of heart. But for those of us who want a little danger in our lives and in our comics, it’s a dream come true.  Black Kiss 2 #1 is pure, raw Chaykin and it’s glorious.

Ron Richards
That’s some GOOD Chaykin
ron@ifanboy.com

Comments

  1. Firevine Firevine says:

    I never read the original Black Kiss. Is there anything that’s “need to know”, or is this its own beast?

    • Ron Richards Ron Richards (@ronxo) says:

      it’s it’s own beast – you don’t need to have read the first Black Kiss.

    • Paul Montgomery Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

      Have a seat, sport. We’re gonna have a Talk. And then we’re going to avoid eye contact for at least a few weeks.

      It goes like this.

      Men and women. Or sometimes just men or just women. Adult people. All animals, really…we….

      Maybe. Okay, I’m going to draw something. Now, I’m no artist. Stop laughing.

    • Firevine Firevine says:

      Hah!

      I did read the Wiki on the original series after seeing the teaser for this, and it really didn’t seem like my cup of tea. I wanted to give every Image #1 a shot this year though, so I’m giving it a go. Hopefully my wife doesn’t look over my shoulder.

      Discovering indie books did seem dangerous when I was younger. My mom picked up a copy of Alien Legion for me as a kid. It was completely crazy to 13 year old me. I can’t remember other things from back then, except for Cerebus, but man….man, what an eye opener.

  2. adrianrigter adrianrigter says:

    Damn, monster review Josh:)

  3. zombiemoses zombiemoses says:

    hey maybe if this gets popular we could get more American hentai

  4. Spoons Spoons says:

    This not being released digitally? I don’t see it on Comixology.

  5. jackietam jackietam says:

    I feel dirty..

  6. jackietam jackietam says:

    I guess this is the “naughty-Chaykin” Ron has been talking about for years..

  7. kingjoeg kingjoeg says:

    Hawkeye 1 was best

  8. zak7khan zak7khan says:

    What! You didn’t give pick of the week to Avengers vs X-Men! Are you not enjoying how Cyclops’ integrity is being destroyed and how Wolverine is now the center of the Marvel U. Scandalous. Marvel! Now!

  9. It’s a good week when Chaykin gets the POW. I love that guy’s work.

  10. WheelHands WheelHands says:

    I’m definitely a guy who likes sexy, violent comics. I’m also a guy who’s never understood the appeal of Howard Chaykin’s art.

    According to Ron’s review, I’m the target demographic.

    I’ll be picking this up tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

  11. VTfan says:

    I have the Graphicaly app on my iPad but searching on “black kiss” and “black-kiss” and “Chaykin” and looking at the books listed under Image Comics does not turn this up. Anyone have an idea what’s wrong. I’d love to give it a try.

    • scottced scottced says:

      It looks like it’s available through Graphic.ly and Comixology’s website but not through their Apple apps. I wonder if that has something to do with Apple’s policies about “pornographic” work.

  12. This is a great review and I’m surprised about the pick because I didn’t even know this was coming out. Will definitely give it a shot in trade….Also….Is ifanboy now a pro-hentai site? Cause that preview….well it’s hard not to joke about it!

  13. AmirCat AmirCat says:

    This was an awesome review. really enjoyed reading it, I’m gonna have to go back and get this issue. The black and white Chaykin looks amazing!

  14. wangman31888 wangman31888 says:

    I thought that one issue of Saga with the dinosaur penis was gonna be the dirtiest comic I read this year and boy was I wrong!

  15. odare77 says:

    And thank you UK customs for stopping this book coming into the country!

    And as a major Chaykin fan can I suggest to anyone else who digs the great man, you need to check out the recent Art of Howard Chaykin HC…some beautiful artwork alongside some funny and interesting stories. It’s great to see him getting the recognition he deserves, as someone who was at the forefront of independent comics and other innovations, and not just as a provocateur.

  16. consafo80 consafo80 (@consafo80) says:

    well I’ll see if this is in my lcbs but if it’s true about UK customs may not be

  17. nastysnow nastysnow says:

    god no just god no

  18. stuclach stuclach says:

    Wow.

  19. Firevine Firevine says:

    I Gave it a whirl. I don’t find the content objectionable or offensive, it just isn’t for me. It was worth a shot though.

  20. craig stuart craig stuart says:

    That’s cool Ron but I mainly just like it because of all the dicks going into everything

  21. Boner time!

  22. stevetwo stevetwo says:

    I haven’t liked Chaykin for a long time: Just my opinion, but he hasn’t drawn an original-looking character in years, every protagonist is a put-upon rough neck who somehow winds up scoring with a woman in issue #2, and in every interview he comes across (again, just me) as an elitist who looks down on hero books.

    That said, even I have to admit that Black Kiss was his greatest achievement and a milestone of that decade. All other books he has done since don’t have that same kind of impact. That’s probably just me. After BK, I couldn’t read anything by him that didn’t make me compare it to BK.

    You had to read Black Kiss volume 1 a few times to get all the intricate layers. Hard to do when you’re distracted by the graphic oral, the bodily fluids (ALL KINDS), Skinemax scenes, sexual assaults and violent deaths. The beatings, the weird cults, animal sacrifice and nuns? All normal compared to that. In fact, the vampire plot was barely hinted at until the last issue or two.

    If it’s as good as Ron says it is, I’ve gotta get it.

  23. NSFW Panels of the Week time!

  24. usedzamboni says:

    It seems very transgressive.

  25. What the hell did I just read? Reminds me of a time when I read Sachs and Violence by Peter David and George Perez.

  26. markavo markavo says:

    I got it because of the history of the writer and his impact on comics. I’ve never read anything by Chaykin before and it sounded interesting. I was told by my friend at my LCS when I picked up my hold that it was a VERY dirty book and that it was POTW on iFanboy so it made it’s way to the top of my stack. After flipping through the pages it went to the middle of my stack.

    It’s too “full” of content to read casually and I didn’t quite get what I was looking at. Now, after having read it, I found some interesting theme’s. I read the wikipedia plot synopsis of the OG Black Kiss and it sounds like there will be some nod’s to it but that this book is a self contained story. I’m going to need to give it another read through but I’m not sure it’d be my POTW even though I did enjoy it.

    I’m glad for this great review and the community discussion because even though I’ll probably not make it my POTW it’s a deep book that has left me thinking about it a full day after having read through it. Plus, I think the art is spectacular. It’s the minor detail that amazes me, not so much the character’s but even those are, in my opinion, very strong and unique. I’m looking forward to book 2 but I hope the story get’s a bit easier and become’s less dense soon. If it doesn’t my wife isn’t going to like the idea of my continued reading of the book. Explaining the theme’s, will to her, sound like I’m reading it “just for the articles”.

  27. Taking Chakin’s art and the explicit stuff out of the equation, I just found it a bit boring to be honest. I can understand the first mini being a political statement in its time but that can’t excuse the lack of story here. Tedious.

  28. Mordecai Mordecai says:

    I like how you guys are now including the Graphically preview with your POW reviews. Very smart.

  29. Gerry Lopez Gerry Lopez says:

    “Do yourself a favor, ignore the words and the penises. . .” Best sentence in any ifanboy review, ever.

  30. dramos2072 says:

    The first Black Kiss was one of the most underated comics of the 80′s if not of all times. Pick it up if you can still find it..

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