"Years went by like this, but one day, I noticed things were getting mighty strange!" - Budd
Budd and Luu are two pals who have bizarre adventures together without knowing quite how they got into those various adventures in the first place. Budd however has started to notice the world is taking on something of a surreal aspect, and possibly not as a result of eating magic mushrooms. In one of the stranger developments Luu begins to be erased from the word, as in parts of him are becoming invisible. There's only one course of action, leap through a door that has suddenly appeared, told ya it was surreal.
Naturally Budd finds himself Matrixed to a machine, and learns he is in the "Irrenanstalt". Apparently the machine he is hooked up to is going to harvest the memories of all his and Luu's adventures for nefarious purposes. Eventually the gathered information is passed to the head of the operation, the Great Elfaa. Budd and Luu are about to find out something pretty disturbing about themselves, but on the bright side Elfaa makes a reasonable enough offer that might just save their bacon.
Frank Candiloro has found a new target for his revisionist view of time honoured story lines. Previously he broached the vampire myth with Blood Across Broadway and went A Clockwork Orange with Viddy Well, Brother, with Budd + Luu he focuses on the unlikeliest targets in Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, perhaps the most famed comedy duo of the early Classic Hollywood period of American cinema. But we don't just get the this aspect dominating the 46 odd pages of the graphic novel, that would be a tad too easy for Candiloro, we also get hints of The Matrix, the classical Greek concept of the God view of mortals, and if I'm not mistaken perhaps just a hint of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. While this may appear overtly complex and a tad schizophrenia nothing could be further from the truth, while the script is certainly slipping into surreal territory it also has a solid tale to tell that you will definitely want to read.
I'm not going to discuss the script in any detail, that would invariably lead to spoilers, but suffice it to say that the script is entertaining, gets where it's going with the minimum of fuss, and will have you riveted to the page. We have the standard hero on a road to self enlightenment, perhaps - there's definitely a hint of Budd learning a bit about himself, who has to confront a powerful nemesis who appears to hold all the aces in this particular game. Budd + Luu is a two shot release, so since we're taking Part 1 I'm not aware of story's end just yet. Needless to say the chips are down for our animated hero, he needs a task in order to achieve some sort of ability to break his almost pre-ordained fate. Actually thinking about it we could maybe add a pinch of The Cabin In The Woods, and talk even more classic Greek story construct, but I'll leave that till we sit down and look at Part 2 of the novel.
Budd + Luu is of course drawn in Frank Candiloro's immediately recognisable style, a sort of hybrid of German Expressionism, Cubism, and Art Deco. For the purist I guess we're talking a sort of abstract take on geometric progressions, or whatever the current buzz words are. In simple terms it's good to look at, gets the idea of the script across, and is insanely original in a surreal fashion. I was going to make a "50 Shades of Grey" joke here, but Candiloro really doesn't need any more female groupies - likely to be attracted by that off the cuff joke, suffice it to say the panels have shadings of grey and white.
There's a heaviness to Frank Candiloro's artwork that matches the at times dark themes he attacks with gusto, and I got to say with a slightly tongue in cheek approach. At times there's almost this Dreamtime thing going down where you have the idea the panels hold a lot more meaning than simply illustrating the script. I got the same sort of reaction when I read Viddy Well, Brother, Candiloro's re-interpretation of A Clockwork Orange. The lines are heavy on the page and so are the ideas about Big Brother, the crush of authority that has no time for individual creativity, the slightly off beat character as hero. Is this a recurrent theme? - is Frank Candiloro one of our most subversive graphic novel creators? Hell if I know, I simply love his artwork more every time I pick up a new book with the artist's name on the cover.
A few books ago, yes Frank Candiloro is prolific in output, I had this notion that the Author/Artist had found his feet, his voice, his style, and we could expect great things from him. With Budd + Luu Part 1 that idea hasn't gone away, Candiloro references his earlier works in the panels as the 40 odd pages fly past the reader but demonstrates that there isn't any grass growing under the nib of his pen as he strives to produce his best work ever and I see just how many metaphors I can mangel.
So I was more than impressed with Budd + Luu Part 1 as Frank Candiloro continues to explore popular culture with a razor. The book is striking in concept, shows what The Cabin In The Wood could have achieved with a bit of subtilty added into the mix, and more importantly is a damn entertaining read. Whether or not you want to take the subtext on board or simply read a gripping choice this book offers something for all readers. Fully recommended, I believe Part 2 is already available, which is an added bonus. One of the best two shots I've read this year, fingers crossed a wider audience discovers the work of this Artist/Writer.
You can grab a copy of Budd + Luu Part 1 from Frank Candiloro's official Castle of Doom. The book will set you back $7 AUD, which is about the price of a kebab after the pub throws you out, and let's face facts here lardy you don't need those kebab calories feed your mind instead.
Final word here, added after review was written, actually two additional thoughts. Frank Candiloro covers the entire career of Laurel and Hardy, including their ill fated attempts at adding a laugh track to the classic Universal monsters, in a few panels - talk about being concised. Also, and I may be reading a tad too much into things, the idea of Greek theatre is raised again by the multi faced collector of the data.