100 Days, 100 Comics #40: ‘Snake Oil’ #2

Snake Oil #02I read the first Snake Oil volume a long time ago and have been admittedly lax tracking down its follow-ups, which now go up to issue #4. As Chuck Forsman, the series’ creator states inside, this was the final part of his thesis at The Center for Cartoon Studies. Understanding his work from that perspective, Snake Oil #2 comes across as a compelling scatter-shot anthology of various visual and narrative strategies whose stories read together as a meditation on expectation and plot twisting.

The first of these exercises comes with a cat story that plays with its animals dual ability to inspire comfort and terror. The end of that one left me a little flat, but most of these read as chapters extracted from broader tales, so that wasn’t necessarily a detraction. The cats have a really powerful presence similar to their use in Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and the minimalist approach to Forsman’s storytelling just brings them out even more against the mystery at work.

The “Slow Down” story probably worked for me the most. It reminded me of some of Adrian Tomine’s subtler moments in Optic Nerve and Daniel Clowes’ penchant for dishonest, socially maladjusted characters in Eightball. This one has a relentless quality of potential deception that seems to hang above every line and makes for a real Rorschach of discernible circumstances amid the dialogue.

Little more than the World Series being on right now stands between me and issue #3, which I picked up today as well.

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