Review: House of Fun (one-shot)A comic review article by: Zack Davisson
So, I had a dream the other night that the entire staff of Comics Bulletin was engaged in a Geek Trivia-Off with the staff of Ain't It Cool News, and for some reason we all looked like little super-deformed Evan Dorkin characters. That's what I get for reading House of Fun right before bedtime.
I love Evan Dorkin's House of Fun series. I have the whole run of Dork and Milk and Cheese, as well as other odd bits I have picked up along the way. He has this bizarre blend of super-cynicism mixed with wide-eyed innocence that he somehow pulls off; he's a guy who can unreservedly mock comics and everything associated with geek culture, and at the same time unashamedly embrace and love it all.
Recently, Dorkin did a return to his House of Fun series in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, giving us some old favorites like The Murder Family and The Eltingville Club along with his uber-popular Milk and Cheese. This House of Fun One-Shot collects all of the Dark Horse Presents material (#10-12) in a single issue. In the notes in the back, we are told that this material was originally supposed to be issue #12 of Dork, so now you know where to file this in your comic collection.
House of Fun has four Milk and Cheese bits, one Murder Family, and one Eltingville Club making up the bulk of the issue. The rest is filled up with four-panel comic strips mocking everything from God "calling home" a four-year-old baby to the Submariner pissing in the ocean. Dorkin has lost none of his edge or his charm, and he still manages to laugh in your face elegantly enough so that you laugh right along. His little four-panel comics are usually semi-obscure pop-culture digs ("Howard Roark, Age 4 ½" anyone?), or pithy little jokes like "Rejected Make-a-Wish Applicants," or just Dorkin making fun of himself for being so out of touch.
The big story for me this issue is the Eltingville Club story. I always loved this strip. The Eltingville Club are geeks at their most extreme -- I owned a comic shop for years and never met anyone even close to living up this the stereotypes here. I like this strip both because they are funny and because they are a cautionary tale for those of us with a tendency to quibble about geek-details. (I think my own Eltingville Club moment was a time at SDCC when I got in a geek fight with some stranger over Star Blazers vs. Space Cruiser Yamato.) In They're Dead, the geek squad head out for a Zombie Walk, with their usual pretentiousness of insisting on slow zombies vs. fast zombies.
I was surprised at this story. Instead of the full-on making-fun-of-dorks humor that he usually indulges in, Dorkin takes the club into some pretty dark, depressing territory. There's almost a mid-life crisis sensibility about it, like maybe making fun of dorks just isn't fun anymore. It makes you wonder if he is really planning on leaving it like that. Well-written, a good story, but a bummer.
I hope that's not the end of the Eltingville Club. I hope Dorkin is planning more House of Fun. It's been a blast having him back in Dark Horse Presents, and having them all collected together. The funny books could use more funny, and Evan Dorkin is the man who brings it.
Zack Davisson is a freelance writer and life-long comics fan. He owned a comic shop in Seattle during the '90s, during which time he had the glorious (and unpaid) gig as pop-culture expert for NPR. He has lived in three countries, has degrees in Fine Art and Japanese Studies, and has been a contributing writer to magazines like Japanzine and Kansai Time-Out. He currently lives in Seattle, WA with his wife Miyuki. You can catch more of Zack's reviews on his blog Japan Reviewed or read his translations of Japanese ghost stories on Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.