Cannibal Porn (#1 – 3) – Rich Tommaso

2 out of 5

I read Dark Corridor, and there I was, thinking: I’ve discovered an awesome new creator.  But this turned out to be a ‘new to me‘ creator, as Rich Tommaso had quite a history of publications by that point, stretching back through the 90s… and his first published work, Cannibal Porn, for Fantagraphics’ adult line, Eros.  Rich’s earlier stuff (as I started to track it down) had more experimental forays into sex and fetish, so that he had a book for Eros wasn’t so much of a shock, but it was odder that I seemed unable to find much (if anything) written up on it.  It was also moderately hard to track down each issue, adding some further mystery.

As far as I could research, Cannibal Porn is mentioned in passing solely as Rich’s first effort, and that it started as a mini and was expanded.  It is very clearly something done early on, as Rich’s style is very much in the vein of his then-peers, light years away from the stylization he would develop in the decades to come.  His panels are cluttered; characters look alike; and there’s an indie “looseness” that translates to a lack of readability.  It’s also obvious, in retrospect, that this was a short with filler added, although whether or not that filler was all the porn stuff…?  Because, yeah, scenes of hardcore penetration sex and cum, here, and very much of the porno variety where the story just hits pause for some gratuity.  But I’m not a reader of adult comics, and so I can’t properly assess the use or effectiveness of such scenes, and thematically, it’s not out of place amidst the title’s focus on its parties- / drugs- / sex-enlivened personalities.

Cannibal Porn is sorta kinda a murder mystery.  Cannibalism is involved, often mixed with bangin’, but what seems depraved when you’re flipping through the book (a threesome during which fingers are ground up and force fed to someone) is actually darkly humorous when it’s stitched into the wandering plot of mysticism and cross-dressing and punk bands.  And that, ultimately, is where the rating comes into play: besides the aforementioned cramped pages, the story is at odds in settling on a focus – fetish magazine maker Alex and his new girlfriend Spooky; the cannibalized murder victims; Alex’s bumble-about-town lifestyle – and, in turn, doesn’t really commit to a vibe.  This is telling of Tommaso’s earliest stuff in general – it took him a bit to find his rhythm, which, of course, is natural – but because of the possible “can you add more sex?” angle to this book, Cannibal Porn feels especially mixed up.

Worthwhile as a counterpoint to Rich’s career; not so much as a standalone read.

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