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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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03/06/2006 Archived Entry: "Comic review: Raisin Pie 4"

Raisin Pie #4
By: Rick Altergott / Ariel Bordeaux
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Page Count: 32pp
Date Published: 2005

Review by Leigh Anne Wilson

I feel like I came in a bit late to the party to review Rick Altergott and Ariel Bordeaux's indie comic Raisin Pie #4, but even being plopped down in the middle of a couple of plotlines, I found the stories engaging enough to make me interested in reading the first three.

The fourth issue of Raisin Pie contains three stories each from the husband and wife team, Bordeaux leading the way with the first two, "The Pentecostal Pyro" and "The Wrong Love," and Altergott finishing things up with the more visually complex "Blessed Be," and two one page panels, "Young Doofus," and super surreal "The Garden Weasel" on the back cover, an odd little tale that reads like a Kids in the Hall sketch gone horribly awry.

Bordeaux, illustrating with a style heavily influenced by Ghost World author Daniel Clowes, somehow manages, despite the sparcity of both prose and picture, to pack an incredibly complex punch with "The Pentecostal Pyro." The narrator, fire inspector Les Gibbons, investigates the burning of the public library. Strong circumstantial evidence points to Elizabeth Blount, an elderly widow notorious for religious extremism who had vociferously complained about the library's stocking of a fictional novel that glorified child rape. While the first half of the story sets up Blount as a First Amendment opponent, the second half of the tale, structured as a jailhouse interview of Blount in the "Modern Martyr Gazette," softens the reader's initial view of Blount, revealing that her sister was a victim of a brutal child rape and offering a more sympathetic reason for Blount's highly vocal complaints against the novel. In a few short pages, Bordeaux delves past the surface issues of religious mania and censorship, and dips a toe into the deeper waters of radical feminism, obliquely suggesting that what is distressing Blount is actually her growing sense that the public glorification of rape leads to a dangerous rape culture. Oh, and she has a crazy dream about swords, snakes, and her naked sister.

"The Wrong Love," the first chapter in a tale of a teenage girl whose passive attempts to maneuver the boys around her in the name of love backfire somewhat, was definitely lighter fare. Bordeaux still manages to accurately nail down the wriggling schemes and general discontent of lovestruck teenage girls who are trying to figure out how to play by the societal rules that dictate that boys do the asking, and direct their energies into convincing that special boy into thinking that asking her out was his own idea.

Once the reins get passed over to Altergott, the tone of the comic shifts considerably. Unlike Bordeaux's lean presentations, Altergott's illustrations are richly complex with a heavy R. Crumb flavor - all the women have deep curves stuffed into clothing a size too small, and all the men give the impression they're wearing dirty underpants, even when they're fully dressed. The story line revolves around a young girl and her constantly erect nipples, who come from a good family but are involved with a disreputable boy who doesn't make an appearance in this issue. Acid-dropping Satanists hanging out in the woods also factor in somehow, and possibly everything is connected in someway that I'm not clear on.

Both Bordeaux and Altergott have a lock on middle class vignettes - the strongest part of this installment of "Blessed Be" was the delving into the relationship between the girl and her slightly desperate depressed mother whose rambles about cell phone roaming charges thinly hide her fears for the growing gulf between her and her husband, and the neatly displayed comparison of a mother and daughter who are so caught up in their own personal dramas they can't fathom that others may have dramas of their own.

Raisin Pie #4 is published by Fantagraphics, who consistently produce compelling indie comics from their 400 pound gorilla Daniel Clowes to the brilliant Jessica Abel, whose La Perdida series is a must-read for any indie comic aficionado.

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