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Von Bach #1 (review) —“Death becomes you”

Writer: Owen Hammer

Art: Mariano Navarro

Color: Hernan Cabrera

Hammer Comics, 2021

THE RECORD OF OUR LIVES keeps expanding with remakes. Each leap in expression from talking to writing to printing to video has aroused contemporary complaints that enormous loads of stupidity and falsehood disseminate by new means more widely than ever before. Facility outdistances felicity, and we generally wallow in the refuse.

The malicious penumbra of recorded static around us is one curious theme in the independent comic book Von Bach, published in 2021 in seven issues, playing with flickering remakes of horror stories that borders our lives in reality, one series among thousands that weave through our electric universe and curse of friends, er, course of friends of course, except Von Bach, who is actually cursed with “complete metabolic failure but no loss of mobility” as he puts it, in other words a dead man walking, who also believes he is cursed by the unjust course of history and now wants to peel away the horrible remakes portraying his demise and regain his eminent reputation. Or at least to shed the monster bits.

Imagine if you yourself played the key role in a famous nineteenth-century novel by a female author, since copied ceaselessly in renditions unflattering to your status as a serious doctor of electricity, before the unfortunate dalliance that is with that bosomy author girl Elsa, leading to jealousy, death, reanimation, murder, and remorse, “I told you to run”; and then pursued by an angry mob finally immolated in your exploding laboratory and vitrified under the cinders of your equipment. Yet here you are reanimated yet again after more than a century; perhaps the experiment never stopped working. You may look like a corpse, but you have reason to hope and live!

Well, not live exactly. Seeing Von Bach in a suit pleading his case before a judge makes one wince a little, realizing this is the kind of undead creature that usually means a muscular confrontation and flying body parts. Money is involved, though, so many of the people just want to get along. Von Bach is there, because he wants to make a new machine.

Author Owen Hammer created Von Bach for stage production in 2010, and it played well for three years before it morphed into print with the enthusiastic contributions of artist Mariano Navarro and colorist Hernan Cabrera, both from Argentina. The crisp story and crisp art engage immediately with vivid appeal, pop in the gentle flow of color and art, pop in the sharp humor running incessantly through the dialogue, pop in the perspective always moving the camera angle and series of angles page to page, sometimes bursting outside the lines without splashing, pop for the magnificent expressiveness in every character at any spoken scene perfectly synched in the art and the phrase as if they were molded together, what must have been possible by all the artists remembering the stage production with real faces. Here is an additional remarkable performance.

The story runs like a film about making a film, with intervening clips from Von Bach films that provide one-page evidence for the court and inspiration for budding screenwriter Minna. “I have them all on my laptop,” she says. She is a big Von Bach fan.

Me too. Despite the being-dead thing.