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April 23, 2014

Dark Horse Reviews: The Eltingville Club #1

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Written by: Martin Thomas
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The Eltingville Club #1The Eltingville Club #1

Publisher: Dark Horse
Story: Evan Dorkin
Pencils: Evan Dorkin
Inks: Evan Dorkin
Colors: Sarah Dyer
Letters: Evan Dorkin

In order to review this title, right out the gate I have to mention that I’ve never read any of the previous installments of this comic. I’m not familiar with the characters, and in fact when I chose to review this comic I didn’t even realize that it was intended to be the last story arc of a 20-year saga featuring “fandom’s four biggest losers.”

Given my utter lack of involvement or history with these characters, my reaction to this issue was based purely as a new reader, and on that basis, it was very difficult to get into.

Art wise, this comic is a real treat in terms of the style. What seem at first to be simple rudimentary black-and-white sketches reveals themselves to be quite complex layouts with really well done inking and strong character designs. On my first reading of the issue, I had a very immediate and strong reaction that the style was akin to old school underground comics from the 1960s and 70s, with overly crowded panels and an abundance of word balloons crowding out the figures. However, upon my second reading, I realized how far off base that initial reaction was. The figures and the layouts in this comic are really well done. It’s actually quite a testament to Evan Dorkin, the artist, that he can make such complex illustrations look so “simple” (for lack of a better word). The perspective, figure design, and backgrounds are all superbly rendered. Yes, they are done in a very cartoon-like style, but the mastery of perspective and overall page layout design is almost deceptive in its artistic proficiency. From that standpoint, I really enjoyed my second reading of this comic.

One of the few non-profanity laden pages from Eltingville Club #1.

One of the few non-profanity laden pages from Eltingville Club #1.

Where I had troubles as a reader of this story was from the standpoint of the characters and the story. I truly think that this is a case of a new reader jumping onto nearly the last issue of a decades-long brainchild of a creator and then saying, “I didn’t’ like this story.” There’s no context for me from which to judge this other than the one issue that I’ve read.

My main difficulty was that I couldn’t relate to, and therefore really disliked, all of the main characters. There’s not one single character in this comic that I can identify with and root for. Partly that’s just the structure of the story – from the research I’ve done, I understand that Dorkin has based these characters on actual people from his past, and that the Eltingville Club is a satire of the most obsessive kind of uber-fan that we’ve all read about. And while the story can be appreciated from that standpoint, as a view through the microscope of that worst kind of fandom, where it falls apart for me is that there are no redeeming qualities for any of the characters. There’s not a single shred of humanity or decency to be found in the book, and after reading it, the best one can hope for is that they might perhaps re-evaluate their own obsessiveness to ensure that they aren’t acting like the characters found in this story. However, I suspect that the caliber of readers who are attracted to the Eltingville Club already understand that it’s a satire and don’t actually behave like the title characters in real life.

At its best, Eltingville Club offers us a very strong artistic aesthetic and a prism through which we can reassess our own fandom-inspired actions toward others. At its most basic, however, it’s really just another story about how power corrupts and can turn even an outsider who longs for acceptance against the very people who have already accepted him. While that’s an important lesson, in this case the forum through which that lesson is taught doesn’t offer enough other material to keep a brand new reader engaged.

Review copy provided by Dark Horse Comics.

Martin Thomas



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