13 September, 2005


At about 20 pages, DAMN YOU, FRIDA KAHLO contains nine new full-page illustrations by James Kochalka, and therefore is definitely of interest to collectors of the cartoonist's work. Thankfully, it also contains some intriguing writing by Greg Zura, and is a dense package of thought-provoking work.

It's not really comics -- as I said, all Kochalka's illustrations are full-page and alternate with full pages of Zura's poetry. The text ranges from the sublime to the impenetrable, but it's always intriguing. The best piece in the book is "Stuckey's," which benefits from some witty Kochalka drawings and the arresting rhythm of Zura's poetry.

I'm tempted to quote the passages involving life choices contrasted with various starchy side-dishes, but really it's a delicate, heady confection that you should experience for yourself. The piece is laudable for its note-perfect recreation of the way we can empathize with people we encounter only briefly, imaging whole universes of their inner lives, and remembering them for years after our one, brief, anonymous meeting. Yes, I am thinking of the beautiful blonde girl who pumped my gas that day in 1991 when I bought my black Dodge Shadow and drove to Ticonderoga just to give it a workout. I'll never forget her. Don't tell my wife.

While Zura's writing makes DAMN YOU, FRIDA KAHLO worth your attention, Kochalka's art definitely adds value to the presentation. From the lovely, subdued cover to the charming illustrations for "Dalai Lama and Me," to the great ass-pinching page in "Stuckey's," it's clear Kochalka was simpatico with Zura's intent and it's definitely interesting to see someone who works so rarely with others -- Kochalka -- do so seamlessly here. Grade: 4.5/5

Damn You Frida Kahlo is available from Last Gasp.


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