Beek's Books - an ongoing collection of comic book reviews
  Keyhole #1-3,
Billy Dogma #1
by Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld
Rating: good, Content: [beyond genre]

 Here's another item from the I Was About To Review This When My Life Fell Apart pile. The good news is that I've picked up more of it to review since then (a third issue, plus an issue of the Billy Dogma spin-off), so I can look at a slightly bigger picture now.

  Keyhole is a two-person anthology by Dean Haspiel and Josh Neufeld. For the most part, each works on their own stories (with input from other collaborators); occasionally they do a piece together. The items range from one-shot one-page vignettes, to the recurring adventures of an off-beat action hero, to the serialised (apparently autobiographical) story of a couple's travels overseas. Having done some travelling abroad myself (and doing it on the cheap and trying to get "off the beaten track", as they did), I found the "Josh and Sari" travel pieces very entertaining. Anyone who has ever been in an unfamiliar country wondering what possessed them to embark on such an "adventure" should be able to relate to them. If you haven't... well, enjoy the vicarious "thrills". {grin}

  Dean Haspiel's primary contribution is "Billy Dogma", an unbalanced tough guy charged in one story with "trafficking an unsolicited belief system, panhandling for a purpose, and daydreaming of a better tomorrow". He's more than a little out of touch with reality or common sense, and a tendancy toward violence. But he has an endearing affection for his girlfriend Jane that makes the poor lug likeable. Haspiel's art tends to be more cartoony and wild than Neufeld's, and this feature is definitely more whacked out than the travel stories (or pretty much anything else in these books). The Billy Dogma spin-off book is mostly "new" stuff (that is, pieces not found in the Keyhole issues; some of it is material that appeared as a weekly strip in a Seattle alternative paper).

   In addition to these major features, Keyhole also includes a variety of shorts by both Haspiel and Neufeld. One of my favourites is a one-shot about Haspiel agonising over the art sample he sent to autobio-comics "giant" Harvey Pekar and whether/how to follow up on it. Other recurring mini-features are "Waiting" (vignettes of a waitress, written by Linda Perkins, art by Haspiel), "Titans of Finance: True Tales of Money and Buisiness" (written by R.Walker, art by Neufeld), "Mrs. Banks..." (an endearingly eccentric old woman, art by Neufeld),  and "Lionel's Lament" (a frankly pathetic young man). They tend to be tragicomic human interest stories, but lumpting them together like that doesn't do justice to their diversity of tone, style, and attitude. Both creatores demonstrate versatility in their storytelling techniques, subject matter, and art style.

 The one-person anthology comic book is a rare, perhaps dying art form. I think that's largely because few individuals have the diversity of talent to pull it off. So Keyhole, with its two creators, may be one of the closest things you'll find. Between the two of them, there's hardly a dud included, which is hard to say of any anthology title.

For more about the writers and their work, visit the Keyhole web site.
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