(John and Luke Holden)
John and Luke Holden's Detrimental Information defies easy categorization. It's not comics. It's not prose, nor is it poetry. It's not pretty in the slightest. What it is, is something bizarre and off-putting, something scrawled and ugly, something so displacing that, as you read through its 312 pages, you begin to lose your esthetic and flow into theirs. By the end of the book, you begin to understand what the Holdens are doing, you understand character, and through this understanding you see the beauty in its vileness.
According to publishers 2D Cloud, Detrimental Information is collection of a zine series, 13 years of it in fact, and is “an epic collection of rude and crude comics about the Midwest; its winters, family, mental illness, sex education, cigarettes and strip poker.” Calling it “comics” though, stretches the label. This is not a sequential narrative. More often than not, the art featured on each page has little if nothing to do with the story being told. It serves no other purpose than to set a tone, arouse a mood, put you off focus in some manner from the thrust of the writing.
In traditionally good comics, words and pictures function together to tell a story. Not so in Detrimental Information. What art does in this book is operate on a different plane than the writing. At first it is amazingly distracting, but as you work through the collection something happens. The drawings suddenly become a surreal commentary on what is being written – and through this commentary there becomes a connection between the artist and audience that works entirely on an emotional level.
And in this, there is genius.
John Holden is a spoken word artist and his storytelling influence dominates this collection. What he writes about is a fascinating series of vignettes that, in the end, define a character to which you can relate through your understanding of his motivations and sympathetic nature. While everything in this book wonks, there is purpose at work here. Even the more baser stories define and illuminate a point of view. By reading these stories and unpacking the art, we find ourselves connected, even if we are repulsed by that fact. There is something about us in this book, even if it is something weird or disgusting, even if it is something beautiful or sad.
Because, yes, we are all of these things.
This is not an easy book and again, it's another one of those things that fellow CB writer Keith Silva shudders when I say “not for everyone.” It is crude, it is ugly, and it's far from the mainstream. Within its own niche, though, this book has a beautiful intrinsic value. It speaks and has something to say.
You can purchase a copy of Detrimental Information from 2D Cloud
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