I’m at a bit of a loss to describe Ivan Brunetti’s Ho!, though I’m pretty sure I’ve never read anything quite like it before.
Ho! is the new collection of one-panel cartoons from notorious cartoonist Ivan Brunetti. Most of the cartoons are pulled from the now out-of-print Hee! and Haw!, although some are from other old anthologies and a few are brand new. As is typical of books from Fantagraphics, the production of Ho! is top-notch. The collection is introduced by comedian Patton Oswalt, and housed in an elegant little 6″x6″ black and white hardcover. This classy presentation makes the subject matter of Brunetti’s comics all the more striking.
Ivan is probably best known for his darker-than-dark black humor, as well as cartooning about incredibly taboo subjects. This reputation is well deserved. If you’re a gallows humor fan with a strong stomach (as I am), you can find a lot to love in Ho! As Oswalt says in the introduction, the gags cover bestiality, racism, felching, pee and puke. Oh, and sex and genitals. LOTS of sex and genitals. The gags are so dirty I couldn’t find an example I felt comfortable posting here.
As for the cartoons themselves, they are a bit of a mixed bag – although there is much more good than bad. Brunetti holds nothing sacred, and many of the panels are exceedingly clever in showing stupidity and hypocrisy in our culture. Gags dissecting homophobia, abstinence and virginity, art criticism and drug culture had me howling with laughter. Unfortunately, more than a few pages seemed to be shocking simply for the sake of being shocking. Brunetti may have made exceedingly filthy and horrific toons to prove that there is nothing that can’t be made into a gag, but these inclusions just fell flat for me. On the whole, I’d say about three-quarters of the book is biting, smart and clever, with the last bit just feeling like the author was filling space by being as vulgar as possible. The book is, to it’s credit, 100% original.
I would like to make special note of Ivan’s fantastic art. The cartooning in Ho! is just awesome. His work is economical; simple enough to not feel busy but detailed enough to get across everything Brunetti wants to communicate to the reader. The work, more than anything else, looks polished. I wasn’t surprised to find that Brunetti has written a pamphlet on the subject of cartooning, as his work is just masterful.
In the end, whether you should pick up Ho! really depends on your threshold for vulgarity and dark humor. If you’re squeamish or prudish in the slightest, you won’t find much to like in the book. If you’re a fan of social commentary that doesn’t hold back and charges into taboo territory, you’ll be thoroughly entertained by Ho! While you might get the feeling that a bit of the content falls short, there is more than enough good here to outweigh the few mundane bits.
Ho!, by Ivan Brunetti – 19.99 – Hardcover – ISBN 978-1606991428 – Fantagraphics