- The Mad Gasser of Mattoon #2
- Jar Press
- Created, Written, & Illustrated by
- John Anthony Rodriguez (aka: JAR)
- Coming to Kickstarter February 1st, 2021
Okay, that’s the review. Thanks for stopping by, everybody!
I kid. There’s totally more to say about this particular piece of work (I even reviewed #1 here), although I may be repeating some of those descriptors over the next few paragraphs. There are just so many ways you can describe a comic in which the main character is a serial killer who gasses his victims before beheading them. Of course, if that’s really all The Mad Gasser of Mattoon had going on, this really could have been the end of my review.
Before I get going, I do have to say one thing. I’ve met John Anthony Rodriguez multiple times. I even have an original piece of his hanging on the wall in my office (it’s pretty great, I’ll show it to you later). He’s a really cool guy, and I have no idea where in that head of his he found this particular story to tell, because this shit is dark. All I can say is that whatever thoughts might be lurking in the deepest shadows of JAR’s mind, we can only hope that they’ve been exorcised and have found their way onto the pages of this book.
The single ray of sunshine to be found in The Mad Gasser is its humor. JAR is able to alleviate some of the truly disturbing things happening here by injecting dark humor in liberal doses. The ongoing repartee between the Gasser and his gassing apparatus- a World War II gas mask on the end of a hose, attached to a tank- shows that the relationship between the two isn’t totally free of contention. In a psychotic chicken/egg scenario, it hasn’t been made clear yet just who is in charge, but I’m pretty sure they both have an opinion. As we get into the second issue we’re starting to see Gasser assert some of his own individuality. Sure, that’s partly in the form of a pretty pink puppy gas mask (all he could get with next day shipping through Prime, of course), but there are other signs along the way that our… huh, protagonist doesn’t seem to fit… let’s just go with “main character” and move on. There are signs that our main character is taking a step away from whatever control the mask had over him in the early days of their relationship.
Of course all of that is with the understanding that this “relationship” is in Gasser’s head, a symbol of his dissociative tendencies, possibly the method by which he deflects the responsibility for his actions. I mean, sure, he kills folk, but to quote one of the greatest movies of all time “They were all bad.” Whatever it takes to wrap the noggin around the idea that we’re supposed to root for the murderous psychopath in the pink gas mask, I say go with it. Look at how many people thought Dexter was awesome, and he killed loads.
All of this is just the vehicle by which we get to the art. Cuz y’know something, that JAR guy can draw! While The Mad Gasser isn’t up to the levels of realism I’ve seen him use in his normal work, I’d say that going for a stylized, more cartoony look was a really good move. Again, JAR is putting a ruthless serial killer forward as the main character of his book. It would be really tough to handle that if everything were done in a sharp, more realistic style. By giving readers that buffer, it’s easier to take the much needed step away from the material so we can feel a little empathy in Gasser’s activities. None of that completely erases the more disturbing images that Rodriguez has created, though. Nor should it. If this book was an easy read, it just wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
All of that said, this isn’t going to be the comic for everyone. If you were a fan of Dexter, and you’re looking forward to the upcoming “final season”, you should absolutely give The Mad Gasser of Mattoon a look. If you’re offended by the heartless decapitation of defenseless victims, perpetrated by a guy in a gas mask and his slightly racist gassing tool, you will definitely want to take a step back and find something else to read.
Final Score: 12/13
And, as promised…
By way of comparison, this is an original piece by JAR, featuring an original D&D character of mine, and the mighty Badger!