The Strange World of Men Review: Disturbingly Awesome

A dog with a face burned off by acid should be the oddest thing about Gilbert Hernandez’s “The Strange World of Men” but it isn’t. Neither does it give away a plot riddled with a barrage of characters who are intrinsically connected. After all there’s a woman who kisses her infant on the cheek and blesses or curses him with the knowledge that once he grows into his skin the lip-mark will show. It’s all disturbing yet you can’t help but read on.

Just exactly what is Hernandez saying with this story? This enigmatic kiss that stains the lead character’s cheek, what is it supposed to be? It seems to manifest the skin in search of a host, but what of the infant? Is the skin a thinking entity filled with memories looking for a form to have its skin fit in to? It all seems reminiscent of David Lynch’s comic strip series “Wild Palms” where each set of panels builds on a story that no one knows where it’s going. Still it intrigues you and draws you in.

One momentous set of scenes centers around an 8-year old girl with an eye patch. She seems to know what this skin is about, however she has the sensibilities of a small child looking for love and attention. A beach outing turns into an ultraviolent moment where a Quentin Tarantino movie breaks out in the middle of a Scorsese film. Each part of the second comic in the series “Grip of Fear” will leave you wondering about the skin you live in and if it will turn on you.

Mostly done in black and white with hints of blood red Hernandez’s art as well as his words forces you to continue reading if only to find out who the three kick-ass women are, why does the child with the eye patch want to take over the world, and why does Joe Hooks know so much about the skin-host? With that kind of knowledge you would think that he would want to be something bigger than a two-bit loan shark. Even eye-patch girl has bigger ambitions. Then there are the two oversized dwarves. For Sammy and Tigre being drawn in a way that shows that they are significantly smaller than the characters around them, yet simultaneously seem larger than their surroundings adds to the storyline in an original visual way. Sammy has big dreams and his girlfriend Tigre are trying to keep them alive. She makes friends with one of the skins who promises to keep them both safe. It feels more like a devil’s bargain and makes you keep reading.

There’s a point where the nice grandmother with the acid-faced dog becomes her own type of monster to her detective “grandson.” It’s another “what the hell is going on moment” that may finally give the readers answers as to just what the skin is and its purpose. As you enter in the next installment “Grippingly Romantic Western Mystery” there’s another moment you never see coming. It’s time to just sit back and enjoy the ride of reading about the objectives of these skins, a grandfather long missing and the Gideons.

Gilbert Hernandez has created a world that is constantly teetering on the edge of sustaining an audience willing to continue the journey with him. There are so many times skin can be ripped open before a person loses interest. At this point the journey is far more interesting than the destination, but like any heart-stopping series you’ll want to know how it will all end.

About Donna-Lyn Washington 634 Articles
Donna-lyn Washington has a M.A. in English from Brooklyn College. She is currently teaching at Kingsborough Community College where her love of comics and pop culture play key parts in helping her students move forward in their academic careers. As a senior writer for ReviewFix she has been able to explore a variety of worlds through comics, film and television and has met some interesting writers and artists along the way. Donna-lyn does a weekly podcast reviewing indie comics and has also contributed entries to the 'Encyclopedia of Black Comics,’ the academic anthology ‘Critical Insights: Frank Yerby’ and is the editor for the upcoming book, ‘Conversations With: John Jennings.’

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