Josh Pettinger’s “Goiter” #6 : Buddy Blank Lives!

Wow, that Josh Pettinger is one busy dude : two new issues of his solo anthology series in less than a year, and from two different publishers at that! Kilgore Books is the new home for Goiter (or should we now be referring to it as Goiter Comics, given the increased emphasis of the latter word in the book’s new logo?) as of issue #6, after a brief stop-over at Tinto Press, but fear not : the “nowhere-to-go-but-up” trajectory of this title continues apace. Hell, Pettinger himself seems to know as much, referring to this issue as his strongest yet on the inside cover blurbs and letters page.

And, really, who am I to argue with the comic’s own creator? Unless he’s wrong, of course — but he’s not, so let’s just trudge on ahead, shall we?

Pettinger’s never been shy about wearing his Dan Clowes and Chris Ware influences on his sleeve, but we can add a new “spiritual father” to the mix this time out : Jack Kirby. After opening with a couple of perfectly likable, though not terribly mentally taxing (not that everything needs to be) slice-of-life shorts, the bulk of this issue is taken up with the first installment of what I take to be a new long-form serial, Victory Squad, which sees Pettinger venture into the realm of speculative science fiction, albeit with the “speculative” part of the equation being pretty well in line with what we all, depressingly, more or less expect the future to be at this point, to wit : everyone is a faceless cog in the Amazon machine, with not only their work production and meal breaks but their living quarters, personal relationships, and “free” time monitored and managed by overlords (of both the flesh-and-blood and digital varieties) in the thrall of the latest heir to the Bezos family empire.

Scary? You bet. Inevitable? I’ll see that bet and raise you.

Our ostensible “hero” here is a typically interchangeable worker-drone named Michael who only seems distinctive in that he might harbor a few more dreams and aspirations for something other than what’s on offer than his fellow “Amazonians,” but even that tepid level of non-rebellion is enough to earn him a demotion to — well, that would be telling, and Amazons has snitches all over the place. Suffice to say when he doesn’t take too terribly well to his new position, what amounts to an escape by default is his only option. But is there anything else left to escape to?

Pettinger’s scaled back some of the detail in his art in order to fully emphasize the soulless homogeneity of his future world, and his typically-drab color palette is already perfectly-suited to this same task, so there’s a seamless “flow” to both the text and visual aspects of his narrative — but no matter how distinctively different everything here might be to The King on a purely stylistic level, anyone who’s read it will be thinking of OMAC #1 and the saga of the hapless Buddy Blank. A nobody in a sea of nobodies. A “blank” both figuratively and literally.

Minus the super-powers, “mohawk” haircut, and Brother Eye satellite, mind you. There’s no outside help coming for Michael, it’s all up to him.

The Kirby comparison can also be extended to the two-part “Norton Of New York” saga from 2001 : A Space Odyssey #s five and six with its protagonist who yearns for a life of freedom and purpose away from the one-size-fits-all society he was born into, but Pettinger’s Michael doesn’t seem to actively want adventure so much as simple relief from the boring and the tedious. To that end, then, I think of this opening salvo of Victory Squad as “Kirbyesque dystopian sci-fi on a human scale,” and ya know what? Given that Pettinger manages to put his own unique signature on it, to approach this admittedly well-worn premise in manner that others haven’t before? I like to Imagine that if jack himself could see this comic, he’d nod his head in approval.

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Goiter #6 is available for $8.00 from the Kilgore Books website at http://www.kilgorebooks.com/shop/goiter-6-josh-pettinger

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