Wednesday’s strip was not available for preview. THANK GOD.
There’ve been many times lately when criticizing this strip feels like criticizing a preschooler’s finger-painting. When presented with such a work, you don’t want to say, “Well, Tommy, arms don’t really come out of the sides like that, and shoes aren’t big and round like wheels. And is that a dog?” That just seems kind of mean-spirited.
Tom Batiuk doesn’t write well. To put it mildly. He cannot plot out a proper story, his ear for dialogue is deaf, and his points are buried beneath the ineptitude of his execution. Occasionally, he has a sort of ham-handed way with a phrase that has a certain off-putting charm, but that’s about it.
But what if that’s the best he can do? His “stories” over the last couple of years have started out like they might be going somewhere but always–always–end up like a balloon that’s just been unknotted. Falling to the earth with a farting noise. The Butter Brinkle thing–seriously, what an embarrassment that would have been to a professional, published writer. Here? In it goes. And once it was done, it was gone. Nothing to tie it together, nothing to indicate it meant anything…no impact at all.
Lately, the strip has been all been wish-fulfillment. Les gets showered with praise. Funky gets stepped on. Everyone talks about how awesome Les is. Bull gets an off-hand death that is largely used to push “Lisa’s Story” again. That really seems like the work of someone who doesn’t care.
But he seems to be losing his grip on the elements he’s always deemed important, like Les and “Lisa’s Story.” How many times has Mason told Les he wants to option the book? He flew out to Ohio to do it, then flew Les in to California to do it. That doesn’t seem like someone who can separate the wheat from the chaff. Both are treated with equal carelessness.
So I wonder if I’m pointing out the shortcomings in the work of someone who should do better…but can’t.