Feiffer (Cousin Joseph, 2016, etc.) closes out his Kill My Mother graphic-novel trilogy by weaving the Hollywood blacklist into his noir quilt of sex, violence, labor, and media.
When we last saw Archie Goldman in Cousin Joseph, the prequel to Kill My Mother (2014), the schoolboy had managed to locate a missing diary that contained lurid details that could derail lives. Now Archie is a grown man working (for his mother) as a detective and, again, in search of a damning document: this time, a screenplay containing revelations about the true motivations behind the Hollywood blacklist. It turns out most everyone in Los Angeles has something to hide—from a pro-American philanthropist eager to be dominated by a Bolshevik beauty to a union organizer with a penchant for fancy socks and choking his lovers to blacklisted writers using fake names and fronts to keep selling their scripts. Some characters have appeared in the previous two books and now have blood on their hands or bones to pick (Feiffer includes “flashback” pages, which are lifted directly from Cousin Joseph); others are new, like a Broadway writer whose unimpeachable integrity doesn’t jibe with the Hollywood studio system and the only two people of color in the entire series—one of whom, Orville Daniels, Archie meets while fleeing an angry mob, and neither son-of-socialist-Jew Archie nor African-American Orville is certain which of them is the mob’s true target. It all builds to a satisfying settling of scores and a final conspiracy that sends the series off with a wink. Once again, Feiffer has delivered a madcap meditation on love, loyalty, identity, and America that is by turns funny, tragic, and triumphant—and thoroughly weird. Both illustrations and story feel loose and loopy, and the ultimate effect is mesmerizing.
A fitting conclusion to a wonderfully outrageous epic.