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Book Review < Back

The Collected Hutch Owen

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Tom Hart
Publisher: Top Shelf


My girlfriend just asked me if I knew what 'obstreperousness' meant, and (no surprise) I didn't, so I looked it up. My MicroCompuFuck E-dictionary 2000 defines it as "noisily and aggressively boisterous" and "strongly objecting to something or noisily refusing to be controlled." It's a fitting word in light of having just read THE COLLECTED HUTCH OWEN, and I choose to believe that this Random Event does in fact Mean Something, especially in light of the fact I was sitting here, drooling on my bib and wondering how to start my review of same. So, it's gonna start with the word "obstreperousness".

Obstreperousness is the quickest way to lose your audience if you actually have something to say. Hell, you could be telling me that my house is on fire and if you're yelling, I'm going to think you're kind of a jerk. Most times when comics cover a topic that's economic, social, or political, nine times out of ten it'll be painted an inch thick. Bores me to tears, being yelled at. I was never good at it.

And while the titular Hutch Owen certainly yells a lot, cartoonist Tom Hart never does. Proving himself more clever still, he's made HUTCH OWEN laugh-out-loud funny. It's the story of the world's last intellectual iconoclast, a philosopher bum and his one-man-war against the soulless Worner company (who have, amongst other cultural atrocities, mass-marketed Malcolm X merchandise complete with their co-opting of his famous 'By Any Means Necessary' creed, "That's All Good and Well - So Long as No One Gets Hurt."). Hutch doesn't have much use for the modern world, and he has very little understanding as to how it works. He seems to exist solely as a pain in the ass, a gutter punk Superman to an America of Lex Luthors driven nuts by fast cash and utter convenience.

Hart's work is deceptively simple, almost childish in its rendering. The guy simply pulls off far too much with far too little to be anything other than as controlled and calculating a cartoonist as Chris Ware or Dan Clowes. HUTCH OWEN is a measured yet manic voice of dissent, charming and disarming in its tone and intent. And when reading a condemnation of rampant consumer culture, isn't that a wonderful surprise?

-- Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.


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