Night Business by Benjamin Marra

Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #119

VICE art editor Nick Gazin gives a surprisingly positive review of DC's 'The Flintstones.'

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Nov 17 2017, 3:13pm

Night Business by Benjamin Marra

Hello VICE readers, this is a column in which I, Nicholas Gazin, discuss and review comics, zines, art books, toys, or anything I think is aesthetically worth talking about.

I haven’t written one of these review columns in a while. The shelf above my toilet where I keep all my review books is starting to lean pretty hard. I guess it's time to write about some of these books, so I can get rid of them.

But before we do that, I want to tell you about Benny Montero. He makes comics for us and has a band called Montero. They're currently on tour with Mac DeMarco.

Here's a fun animated video Benny made for his band:

Alright. Now here are some reviews:

Night Business by Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics)

Nobody is as good/bad as Benjamin Marra. Most good/bad artists are either more good or more bad, but Marra straddles the line between slickness and sloppiness with keen agility. If you’re unfamiliar with Marra’s work, he makes comics that look like they were made by the most talented juvenile delinquent in the world. Marra’s anatomy appears to be based on studying superhero comics, porno mags, and action figures, which are all then lovingly over-shaded. His stories are full of over-the-top sex and violence, like a kid who watched Death Wish 4 and thought it didn’t go far enough. He approaches comics the way Eric Andre approaches making a talk show. Night Business is equal parts hilarious and nauseating, and when you finish it, you’re left pondering how strange it is to be a human being.

The 240-page hardcover Night Business collects the first four issues of the comic book series, along with a bunch of new chapters that complete the story. It tells the story of Johnny Timothy, a tough but considerate guy who manages strippers for Glitz Glam Exotic Talent. There’s a masked slasher killing strippers, and Johnny has made it his personal mission to kill the mystery murderer. In the course of manifesting his grim hopes and dreams, he kills a lot of other people, and a lot of other people try to kill him. Eventually it turns out that there’s an evil cult led by the mayor which is sacrificing women to appease some ancient god or some shit. Night Business is what Sin City would be if it had been made by a cool, funny guy instead of that angry nerd Frank Miller.

In the third chapter, Marra starts using thick brush lines into his drawing style that are reminiscent of Raymond Pettibon or Lawrence “Raw Dog” Hubbard. In the fourth chapter, he uses these thin shading lines that look like a sloppy imitation of the Image Comics aesthetic of the early 90s, while also making the anatomy looser and more grotesque.

While the story itself is interesting enough, the comics are too bizarre to ever be immersive. The characters are too flat and weird looking to be relatable, their environments too boxy and weird to ever allow the reader to fully suspend their disbelief. As you read it, instead of feeling concern for the characters, you’ll be wondering what sort of freak Marra must be.

Buy Night Business.

The Flintstones Vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (DC Comics)

Who could have predicted that a comic based on a terrible old cartoon would be greater than Art Spiegelman’s award-winning graphic novel, Maus? Nobody, but here we are. The Flintstones is surprisingly well written by Mark Russell, well drawn by Steve Pugh, and tastefully colored by Chris Chuckry. Each issue satirizes and takes down a different societal convention. The first skewers capitalism, the second consumerism and religion, and the third is about colonialism. The fourth is about heteronormativity and monogamy. The fifth is about democracy and war. That might make it sound preachy, but it works. In the marriage-centric issue, the concept of monogamy is considered kinky, and the first people to embrace it are a gay couple named Adam and Steve—which is fun. Then the comic explains why homosexuality isn’t just acceptable but necessary for our species. The sixth issue deals with an impending apocalypse, but we also get to see the talking animals that the Flintstones use as tools and appliances talk about how hopeless, scared, and lonely they are.

Tom Scioli and John Barber blew everyone’s minds a few years back with their beautiful Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe comics. Maybe their success inspired DC to try to handle familiar cartoon properties in an adult way. Anyway, this is a very fun, very readable comic.

In 1961, the Flintstones were used in a Winston Cigarettes commercial, in an attempt to make kids want to inhale poison. Now these familiar cartoon cave people are being used to tell kids that they should question all of society’s rules and traditions.

Buy The Flintstones.

Garden of the Flesh by Gilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

This fake leather booklet retells the Bible as a series of sex scenes and religious miracles. We see Adam emerge up from the soil, boner first. Soon after that, there’s a hilarious sex scene and a ridiculous cum-shot every couple pages. It’s weirder than it is pornographic, and the oddness is amplified by how the animals are drawn, which is sort of like if a child had drawn some piñatas. Gilbert Hernandez is one of the modern greats, so I would advise that you definitely read this unless you’re averse to comics that are drenched in jizz. Is this comic saying that sexual congress and orgasms are as miraculous as anything that happens in the Bible? I asked Gilbert Hernandez and he answered handsomely.

“I was looking at [R.] Crumb's version and nobody seems happy in it unless they're fucking someone over. I just wanted to do a happy version with good-looking people enjoying each other. Crumb seemed to only like Adam and Eve in the Bible, as he's done their story before. I figured Adam and Eve were supreme airheads since they were the first people, which also gave them their attractive innocence. Cynics are creeps when it comes to sex.”

Mystery solved by the best looking man in comics, Gilbert Hernandez.

Buy Garden of the Flesh.

Genesis by Merv Heers

Merv Heers does comics in which he traces a lot of his art from popular manga works. Sometimes he does comics for VICE. This mini-comic is another weird retelling of the Bible with imagery not typically associated with the Bible. Is this a trend? What’s with all the Bible fan-fiction these days? Is this all a homage to Nice Pete?

Buy Genesis.

The Pokémon Cookbook by Maki Kudo (Viz Media)

I hoped this would teach me how to cook Pokémon meat, but the reality was much less exciting.

Buy Pokémon Cookbook.

Follow Nick Gazin on Instagram.

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