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Comic Review: Cocopiazo #1-4

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Cocopiazo could have been dire.  From what I can ascertain, Cocopiazo seems to be about the art of writing.  Sure, series creator Daniel Warner can put main character/lush John Victory into limbo, having Death and Job try to put one over on Victory by proving how unsuccessful Victory will be as an author (he writes one book that goes into the bargain bin, if you’re wondering).  There can be asides to the world of “creative writing” and just how much mental masturbation there is out there.  Sex and art can be writ large as a story arc.  None of this matters if the comic books are unfocused, creatively bankrupt and generally awful.

Cocopiazo is not awful.  Sure, the comic book is essentially concepts with some semblance of plot to keep it coherent, but the only time it ever really seems to veer into dodgy surrealism is with the denouement to Issue #3 – how does John Victory get out of limbo?  Well, limbo disappears, and…uh…oh look, Jose the Birthday Monkey!  Even given the nature of the series, it seems like a hasty wrap-up.  Maybe I’m wrong – John Victory doesn’t seem to be any good as a writer, and the monkey seems to be his creation.  Either I’m not reading enough into Cocopiazo or Daniel Warner rushed to make deadlines.  That sort of ambivalence makes Cocopiazo what it is.

Frankly, what Daniel Warner’s doing is difficult to pull off with some semblance of quality.  Matt Howarth could do it, but his Bugtown was a literal city of anarchy and Warner’s not doing science fiction.  Even so, Cocopiazo‘s rambling quality works as what Warner says seems to ring true.  Cocopiazo is firmly within the realm of the alternacomic but manages to say something about the nature of writing, and something meaningful at that.  David Warner doesn’t seem to be afraid of even picking himself apart, and isn’t afraid of throwing in some violence without it being a sop to male audiences.  He’s appropriating Satan, Cthulhu and other mythic figures as characters, but they aren’t there merely as exercises in divergent characterization.  Warner’s artwork is stylized without being off-putting, and his dialogue is intelligent without being disingenuous.  That Daniel Warner can be intellectual without seeming up his own arse gives me hope for the future of independent comic books.

Cocopiazo is one of those comic books that I wish there was more of.  I’m not averse to superhero comics, and the independent comics scene in general has always been hit-and-miss.  Cocopiazo isn’t perfect by conceptual design, but it’s genuine.  I guess all comic talents play with reality to some extent, but Warner reminds me of a Howarth or a Sam Kieth in that his playing on more than one plane of reality is truly notable.  I don’t know how the comic book world is going to take to CocopiazoThe Maxx managed an MTV series, but it was as much a superhero comic as a look into the psyches of its characters.  Those Annoying Post Bros. and Savage Henry enjoyed good runs, but they aren’t much more than footnotes to the 1980s independent comics scene.  I think Cocopiazo is with the right company, and it doesn’t surprise me to see why Slave Labor Graphics picked this series up.

It’s hard to say how much this comic book is going to make or how much influence it will have in the long run, but Daniel Warner is going to be around for a while.  Daniel Warner’s using Cthulhu as a bellhop and it doesn’t look forced or stupid.  For that alone, Warner deserves a damn medal.

Sample Scans
Howard the Limbo hotel bellhop from Issue #2 makes his expository dialogue.
Jose the Birthday Monkey appears (Issue #3).  This is representative of the ending to the “Screwdriver” arc.  Accomplished or just badly surreal?  It’s hard to tell.
The “highly sensual, almost sexual” cliché at work (Issue #4).  This leads, of course, to sex.

Relevant Info
Cocopiazo #1-4
Slave Labor Graphics, 2004-05
$2.95 each issue; 28 pages per issue
(Available from SLG Publishing)
Edited: [!–GH–]

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About Cameron Archer

  • http://riotlounge.livejournal.com Nico

    My take on Cocopiazo was very similar to my take on this review, even. On first glance, you’re not sure what to make of it, but as you wind yourself towards the center, you realize what is really being said.

    I like that both make subtle strokes but with bold points. Cocopiazo is the kind of comic book that you can sit down and enjoy without feeling that you need a reference book handy, or without being compelled by INFINITE CRISIS kind of character bins or story arcs. It’s modern, it’s crazy, and it’s kind of cheeky.

    I like it a lot – I read it, feel kind of good about myself, remark on how interesting the writing is and feel compelled to mix a good martini. Not many comic books can do that for me.

  • http://breealysia.blogspot.com Bree

    “That Daniel Warner can be intellectual without seeming up his own arse gives me hope for the future of independent comic books.”

    This is on point. And I would like to also note that your review is intelligent without being up your own arse. So many reviewers are more interested in writing witty, complicated reviews that it is difficult to see the work they are reviewing.

    As a fan of Cocopiazo, I enjoyed this review very much. As a journalist, I loved it.

  • http://www.christopherwarner.com plungingforward

    (Warning! Contains Spoilers!!!)
    Despite my Lovecraftian leanings, my favorite scene in this book to date isn’t Howard the Bellhop (though he’s up there on the list) but the smarmy writing teacher having hot coffee poured on his face. Who among us hasn’t had that particular fantasy at least once?
    As for the monkey, isn’t that an excerpt from the book Death brings back from the future? (Maybe this DOES sound a bit like INFINITE CRISIS.) I consider it an “appendix” to the actual story, which ends abruptly with a bottle to the head.
    I really liked your review. This – “(Cocopiazo) is essentially concepts with some semblance of plot to keep it coherent,” – hits the nail squarely on the head. I appreciate your willingness to raise meaningful questions rather than invent meaningless answers. Your knowledge of the medium is used to assist in your speculation and assesment rather than, as is all-too-frequently the case, just a showcase for itself (Oh the things I know!). Two thumbs up from this review reviewer!

    /Note: 3rd graph, 5th sentence, wrong name used for author -CW-/