Americanjism: #1-3, By Joe Denney, 112 pgs. ea. By Keith

Jan 16, 2007

The three graphic novels that compose the entirety of Americanjism must’ve taken years to complete; there’s over three hundred pages of story here, full of exquisitely rendered illustrations that at times have an insane amount of detail thrown in ‘em. From an illustrator’s perspective, this guy’s on top of his game: there’s the aforementioned detail, the blending of accurate, lifelike backgrounds and locales mixed with the odd-looking but consistently-drawn characters. You never get the feel that you’ve suddenly stepped into a different comic because the guy’s style suddenly changes; he’s always visually consistent, and the whole project is obviously a labor of love and lot of hours. And I imagine he really feels like he’s making a statement with this thing.

Unfortunately, the statement is ultimately rendered moot, due to the fact that the bulk of Americanjism alternates between incredibly disturbing and absolutely, mind-numbingly stupid.

The story follows the McRonalds, a “quintessential American family.” A father, mother, son, and daughter. I won’t even really get into the story, because it’s convoluted, scattered, pointless, and mostly just serves as an excuse for Denney to draw a lot of tits and cocks squirting jizz. That’s right, there’s a whoooole lot of dude-chowder being fired off in these 300-plus pages. There’s also copious amounts of blowjobs, buttfucking, cunnilingus, drug use (intravenous and otherwise), facials, orgies, and fisting, among other gems. Some form of incest (sometimes with the whole family involved! Yay!) seems to occur about every five or six pages.

I mean, I guess I get what this guy’s going for—the story is loosely based, among other things, around the hypocrisy of religion (the father is a hard-sinnin’ minister), abortion (the daughter’s already had a drive-up “McBortion”), and giving drug prescriptions to kids (the son, Grownkidman, is given “Americrack” to help him focus in school.) It’s supposed to be a pointed satire of and diatribe against the double standards and duplicity inherent in government, religion, and Americana itself. Unfortunately, Denney tries, over and over again, to go for some kind of belly laugh but fails to recognize that, at least to this reader, there’s not a whole lot that’s funny about a mom sucking off her son. (Or dad and daughter, mom-dad-and-daughter, brother and sister, etc. Take your pick; it’s all here.) There are quasi-psychedelic passages in the book, lots of tirades about God and “reality,” at which time some member of the family will take drugs, nearly die or in some form or another be sent to the astral plane, only to come back to this reality so the whole drugs-sex-and-stupidity trip can start all over again.

Like I said, this man can draw, and there is some kind of story being told here, but Americanjism fails so miserably as a whole by relying solely and repeatedly on visually “taboo” shock tactics and barbed dialogue to prove its point, rather than trying to utilize good storytelling, pacing, and some kind, any kind, of emotional resonance. I mean, I never cared for any of the characters at all, never cared what happened, and never once really felt like the story was going anywhere. All told, Americanjism is over three hundred pages of dirty pictures that tries desperately to make a point and simply winds up choking on its own cynicism, obviousness, and lack of heart. –Keith Rosson (Pipe Dream Comics, PO Box 432, Sag Harbor, NY 11963)

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