Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer Review

Books Reviews Jules Feiffer
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<i>Kill My Mother</i> by Jules Feiffer Review

Writer & Artist: Jules Feiffer
Publisher: Liveright
Release Date: August 25, 2014

Kill My Mother may be Jules Feiffer’s first original comics offering in a while, but the accomplished auteur is hardly new to the medium. Born in 1929, Feiffer has been creating sequential art since joining legendary Spirit-creator Will Eisner as an assistant at the ripe age of 16. Despite his history in the medium, though, he appears weirdly segregated from the realm of syndicated cartoons — maybe it’s because of his prolific output in such alternative fields as illustration, children’s books, prose novels, plays, screenplays and animation. The man has packed a lot into his 85 years.

His new effort certainly draws on the influence of his mentor, Eisner; the pages revel in the film noir aesthetic, focused on suave motion. The book deviates from traditional panel layouts with big, crowded pages; heads break freely from one panel into another, and vague rectangles jumble alongside one another, faintly trying to contain the energy bubbling within them.

The story, often the case in the genre, is secondary to the atmosphere, despite the presence of an obligatory twist ending. Much like the time Raymond Chandler was unable to clarify whether one character had been murdered or committed suicide in The Big Sleep for its film adaptation, this narrative also sports its own plot ambiguities. But more importantly, the speed and style are both on full display here.

Some of these chapters only fill a single page or consist purely of a dance routine/nightclub rendition of a torch song. Both examples are romantic and cynical at the same time, caught up, one might say, in the romance of cynicism that characterizes the detective genre: betrayals and blondes and all manner of desperate clutching. You can’t trust anyone, and yet these characters trust one another constantly, with their lives, secrets and thoughts. Viewed from a distance, the procedure can all seem rather silly, but Feiffer’s commitment to the material and his ever-enjoyable art make it all work. You may not be sure how the pieces of Kill My Mother fit together in the end, and you may well be annoyed by some of the plot’s implausibility, but if you can relax and focus on the moment, you’ll take no small pleasure in the craft of a man who has been putting pen to paper for a long, long time.