Since I've read Incinerator, a few days have passed by. I've gone to work. I've driven a few hundred miles. I've socialized. I've even helped my dad tear a tree stump out of the ground, back to the sky, underneath a naked sun (because that's what we do in West Virginia). All of these routines and practices have consumed my time and focus, yet those single visuals, those panels, still pop up in my head like hot afterimages, saying exactly what they show, leaving me simply confident that I've recently read something great. I like that feeling. I like when a good comic sticks to my bones and slowly drips off. There's an experience associated with that - an experience you'll probably mark later in life via a season or memories of when you were a certain age. I just wish it happened more often, but for now, I'll just stand subject to what Incinerator has to offer. Luckily though, the offerings are pretty sweet. Incinerator marks cartoonist Michael DeForge's latest effort in comic making, but really, it's more than just an effort. Incinerator's a success - a sound side project from DeForge's more known work, Lose. Comprised in a fourteen page mini comic, this narrative spells the tale of a human/dog hybrid by the name of Slater and what happens to him after an accident forces the removal of his dog half. While it sounds quirky and possibly humorous, Incinerator cuts its teeth more from a disturbing, stark tone which delivers a somewhat bleak conclusion, but, somewhere in there, DeForge does leave a few laughs, understanding the concept he has at hand.
Tonally, the comic exemplifies a very appropriate, considered horror/humor relationship which provides the work a unique stylistic flare. For DeForge, it seems there's always a little something to snicker at in what scares us, and Incinerator is sort of the perfect example of that idea with it's comically disturbing lead character (who resembles Charlie Brown's head on top of Snoopy's body). But to take the idea further, DeForge, while using a lot of blunt imagery to command a sting on his reader, will occasionally work in a humorous shot to soften the mood as well as suggest the goofiness of the idea. There are also panels that work both ways, frightening and jesting the audience. The panel on the final page of Slater in dominatrix comes to mind.
But I don't want you to leave this review thinking Incinerator is just some humor comic. It's not. At the core, DeForge suggests an emptiness and how removing our flaws can wipe out who we are. It's fourteen pages, but Incinerator goes that extra mile, and it really achieves via its pacing, which I find the most telling aspect of DeForge's skill. At first glance, the comic will look simplistic in all it's six panel grid glory, but really that choice in page layout is the key to Incinerator's rhythm, which is hard and steady - a sound you could almost snap to, yet it wouldn't be so warm. Everything depends on that pattern and ultimately develops the head-on imagery into something more. It's sort of intoxicating.
I honestly have not one complaint about this comic. So far, along with Orc Stain #7, this is up there as Best of the Year material. Hyperbolic, maybe, but I've already read this thing fives times, and I can assure you I'll dive in again. As I said, it's just slowly dripping off my bones.
For more, read this interview with DeForge done by blogger Matt Seneca.
TL;DR: Incinerator cuts its teeth from a disturbing, stark tone which delivers a somewhat bleak conclusion, but, somewhere in there, cartoonist Michael DeForge leaves a few laughs, understanding the concept he has at hand.
Incinerator was written and drawn by Michael DeForge, and it was published by Secret Headquarters. You can purchase the comic at thesecretheadquarters.com.