The noted cartoonist’s first collection renders modern politics as lamentable spectacle.
Modern political cartoonists come in two varieties: The gray-haired dinosaurs doing carefully mild bipartisan humor for the big dailies get what meager glory there is; the rest are mired in the netherworld of free alternative weeklies, hopefully away from the escort ads. Sutton belongs to the latter group; his profanely funny work is seen most often in the Village Voice, occasionally in publications as far flung as the New York Times. While this roundup is far from essential reading, there’s enough good material here to warm the heart of any good blue-state resident. Sutton tends to work from roughly a half-dozen topics: the spinelessness of Democrats, the warmongering of the Bush White House, the cowardice of the mainstream media, the utter and depraved evil of Dick Cheney. His tone of unrelieved and exasperated anger is free from the irony of cozier satirists like Jon Stewart. The clownish artwork and constant, juvenile nastiness can be cloying after a while, as evidence by the one-panel of Donald Rumsfeld masturbating to war footage, a joke that might have seemed funny to someone putting together a college newspaper at four in the morning. Nothing here achieves the satiric insight of, say, Tom Tomorrow, one of Sutton’s closest peers. That said, one strip, “Visitors,” achieves a sublime greatness through its horrific portrait of a man desperately waving from a smoking window of the World Trade Center. Wondering if anyone can see him, he has visions of everyone from a soldier (“I can see you. Your death will motivate me to kill others”), to a lawyer (“I’ll fight to get you and your survivors a sizable, respectable settlement”), to Osama bin Laden (“I can see you. And I’m laughing”). It also stands out simply because it’s one of the only pieces here to deviate from the usual carping.
Passionate to a fault, in a way that’s inspiring even as it becomes furiously repetitive.