Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just Plain Strange: Agony (Raw, 1987)

Let me give this to you as straight and narrow as I can: Agony is the most depressing thing I've ever read. It's also one of the most hilarious books I've ever read, and some of the best/worst artwork I have ever seen. Confused yet?

Agony features Amy and Jordan, two friends who are fired from their jobs due to gross incompetence. They decide to go to a movie to cheer up, but the movie is too depressing. They leave the movie and all of the sudden a ghoul comes out of nowhere, rips Amy's head off, and throws it into a fish tank in a nearby aquarium. If that is not bad enough, Jordan attempts to save Amy's head and his legs are bitten off as he is swallowed by the fish! All of which happens in the first dozen pages or so...

The pair continue (after their respective heads and limbs are reattached) on numerous dreaded adventures, from visiting a native tribe and getting blown up then attacked by a bear, to Amy getting infected and having her flesh fall off and her head enlarged, to getting evicted and thrown in prison where they are beaten and tortured, and so on and so on. There is no chance for happiness for these people...ever.

Writer/Artist Mark Beyer's sense of style and approach really makes Agony stand out. Critics may easily write off the poor artwork (as it is amateur at best) and senseless plot, but they may be missing the point. Beyer gives hope to aspiring artists everywhere, whom may never have gotten past their stick-figure phase. Here, Beyer is showing us that almost anyone can draw as long as they can tell an engaging, effective, and hilarious story.

And what a great wake up call reading Agony was. Because in life, nothing ever goes the way you want it to. And while maybe not to the same extreme, we've all had our own Amy and Jordan moments.

If you have yet to read Agony, do yourself a favor and pick this up immediately. Your psyche will thank you for it.


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