01/06/2012. Contributed by Aidan Fortune
pub: Fantagraphics/Turnaround. 240 page black and white graphic novel. Price: GBP16.99 (UK), $22.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60699-346-0.
check out websites: www.fantagraphics.com and www.turnaround-uk.com
Speaking from a food point of view, ‘ Meat Cake’ sounds like a dish so amazing that it couldn’t possibly exist in the real world. How apt that Dame Darcy’s collection takes this title as the stories within are so deliciously out there that you may wonder if she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic.
Food metaphors aside, I’ll admit that ‘ Meat Cake’ takes a little getting used to but once you give it an opportunity, it’s impossible not to get swept up in Dame Darcy’s irreverent and wacky world.
There’s no time to get acquainted, no origin stories here. Darcy dives into ‘ Meat Cake’ mixing up wacky stories of her regular characters with dark Victorian-style fairy tales.
This volume collects the entire first decade of the alternative comic which was published in intermittent instalments during the 90s.
As with collections of this nature, there’s always the danger that they lose their appeal compared to individual issues that one would read a fortnight or, in this case, several months apart. Not so with ‘ Meat Cake’. The wide variety of characters such as bounder Wax Wolf, devious Siamese twins Hindrance and Perfidia and loyal Friend The Girl are rotated throughout the collection, sparing us from familiarity and the inevitable contempt.
It’s also heartening to see Darcy grow bolder as the series continues. Some of the tales are just one page long and that’s all they need to be. No point in dragging them out, tell the story and move onto the next one, something a lot of writers could learn from Miss Darcy.
She also does all of her own illustrations, bringing to life a world and characters that most others would find difficult to even imagine. I do wonder if Darcy had worked with another illustrator from the beginning of ‘ Meat Cake’, would she have found it difficult to outline her characters. Thankfully, it’s not something we have to worry about it.
Darcy hasn’t just stuck to the independent scene, she’s also worked with DC and Marvel and has had collaborations with writing legend Alan Moore. In fact, ‘ Meat Cake’ features a short story written by Moore, ‘ Hungry Is The Heart’, one of only two in the collection not solely written by Darcy. His eccentric style fits perfectly with Darcy ensuring that it doesn’t overshadow the other stories in this collection.
Stand-out for me personally was the untitled suit of cards-themed story that is one page long with just four panels. It’s scarily simple and to the point with no dialogue or characterisation worth a dame. I enjoyed it so much I was tempted to tear it out of the book and frame it on my wall. For someone who loves books as much as I do, that’s big.
My best advice for anyone who dares to sample Dame Darcy’s‘ Meat Cake’ world is to just have a taste, it’ll leave you hungry for more.
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