Screw Heaven, When I Die I’m Going to Mars (Dark Horse)

sh-header.jpgToo Much Coffee Man creator Shannon Wheeler offers a set of trenchant, funny one-page comic strips.

 

 

141 pgs. B&W; $12.95 softcover

(W / A: Shannon Wheeler)

 

A detour through the mind of Shannon "Too Much Coffee Man" Wheeler is always worth the trip. A new collection of one-page strips, Screw Heaven, When I Die I’m Going to Mars, is a delightfully bitter voyage.

 

In one strip, Santa Claus whips a team of confused-looking children as they pull his sleigh across the night sky. Santa offers a jolly "Ho Ho Ho!"; it’s a perfectly acid comment on the commercial basis of the holiday season.

 

Wheeler has drawn a clever parody of those cloying "Love Is…" one-panel cartoons, "Terrorism Is…" He’s even made the figures look like the sleepy-eyed, pot-bellied cherubs of the original. It’s one of many political jibes here.

 

The cover to Screw Heaven, When I Die I'm Going to Mars. Click thumbnail for a larger image.His philosophical stuff is trenchant and funny—you won’t find many other artists who can pull this off. In one strip, for instance, one man asks another, "Do you ever feel like it’s all pointless?" The characters are swimming around a fishbowl, as blithely as tetras. Existential depression, one point.

 

An extended, autobiographical strip is an unexpected pleasure. Wheeler relates having to complete an assignment for a college architecture class during which hallucinogens first destroy his accomplishment and then confer a new vision—with a little help from the ideas of Philip K. Dick.

 

At 141 pages, there’s a lot to like. The caustic stuff is what we’ve come to adore from Wheeler, and it’s here. Some of the topical political material is a bit thin, and other strips reek of having to produce something—anything—before a dreaded newspaper deadline. These strips, few in number, have a half-baked, tame vibe. But the full spread of  work here is a must-have for Wheeler fans and completists. He rarely disappoints. | Byron Kerman

Click here for a 4-page preview of Screw Heaven, When I Die I’m Going to Mars courtesy of Dark Horse!

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