Black Cherry by Doug TenNapel

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Black Cherry
By Doug TenNapel

Doug TenNapelThe most off-putting aspect of Doug TenNapel’s Black Cherry isn’t the sex or violence prominently promoted on the book’s cover, nor is it the moments of pro-Catholic dogma that increase in frequency toward the end of the book. It’s not even the occasionally homophobic dialog—while jarring at certain points, none of the characters who utter it are painted as particularly strong role models—even the good guys.

Rather, the most unfortunate decision on the part of the author, is arguably the inclusion of a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that forewarns readers about the sex, the violence, the naughty words, and the Catholicism. Perhaps TenNapel fans have had the tendency in the past to become overly sensitive and zealously vocal , but nothing over the course of Black Cherry strikes this reader as being particularly heinous, particularly amongst the comic reading crowd.

Still, the author feels the need to caution those who pick up the book about its contents, though, rather than apologizing the TenNapel seeks to justify his decisions, citing the fact that a. mafioso engage in rather questionable activities(fair enough) and b. most citizens in the US are way into Jesus (hm). It’s not the most egregious error an author can commit, but the book would almost certainly be a touch more enjoyable without the word from the author constantly looming in the back of the reader’s head.

Fortunately, reading Black Cherry is still an enjoyable experience. The Gear author and Earthworm Jim designer long ago grasped one of the fundamentals of creating an enjoy comic reading experience: there are certain things that one can pull off in this medium that’s its nearly impossible to imagine working properly anywhere else, which is why we’re left with something akin to Pulp Fiction meets E.T., only to do battle the Exorcist, and while the book loses some of its dime store charm beyond the EC-like cover, the author happily embraces many of the best elements of noirish pulp throughout the book, a case benefited immensely by TenNapel’s adept thick-lined artistic scribblings.

Black Cherry’s protagonist, Eddie Paretti is second-string mafia man—something of a composite of Vincent Vega, Sin City’s Marv, and every Bruce Campbell character, ever—is a strong leading man, managing to get off a few sharp one-liners, over the course of the book. Though, it should be noted that the “Enjoy my Hepatitis, asshole” line, uttered by one of Paretti’s lovers, early on, is a particularly strong candidate for Black Cherry‘s best line.

In the end, it’s not completely clear whether Black Cherry would be more content to be a pulp satire or an earnest homage to the style, providing plenty of goofy self-aware moments, but occasionally becoming over-enthralled by its own over-the-top story-line. Either way, TenNapel’s newest book, while not his strongest, is a largely enjoyable experience, one that is, as always, bolstered by his aggressively unique drawing style.

–Brian Heater

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