From the Ashes by Bob Fingerman

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From the Ashes: A Speculative Memoir
By Bob Fingerman

bobfingermanfromtheashescoverThe apocalypse is a thing to be feared, right? The horseman, the boiling seas, the mass extinction, all of that Kevin Costner postal service nonsense. From Mary Shelley to Cormac McCarthy, the post-apocalyptic literary landscape has nearly always been dire, at best, a banning together of rogue survivors, in the last glimmers of hope at the prolonging of an otherwise doomed species.

That’s not to say that there’s no precedent for eager the anticipation of such events. Fundamentalist Christian literature, for one, has often heralded its arrival—most notably in recent years is that Kirk Cameron favorite, Left Behind, which all but rolled out the welcome mat for the army of fiery sworded angels.

Cartoonist Bob Fingerman, while likely never having been casually mistaken for a representative of that crowd, lets it be known fairly early on From the Ashes that, well, there are worse possible outcomes than the decimation of six billion or so of his fellow earth dwellers.

After a fairly standard letter into the abyss intro by the author turned narrator (“I’ve got one ream of paper, so I have to get this right”), which fails altogether to explain away the cause of such global destruction, we find a fictionalized version of Fingerman surveying the urban ruins with his wife Michele by his side.

Between the two of them, it doesn’t take long to reach the conclusion that maybe this whole mass extinction thing is really such a raw deal after all. “I’m really torn,” Fingerman begins, standing in a crater in the middle of what appears to have once been a Manhattan tenant building. “The so-called civilized world has just been pretty much obliterated, so I guess I should be bummed out.”

The realization comes quickly—no work, no BlackBerrys, no right wing blowhards. Hell, aside from a few minor inconveniences, the whole thing seems a veritable Garden of Eden.

Naturally, even in “speculative memoirs,” such scenarios are never so cut and dry. Standing between the couple and the paradise on earth they initially envisioned are bands of mutants, the undead, repopulation camps, and the bionic reincarnation of much loathed media blowhard.

Ultimately, in true Fingerman fashion, the book exists at the crossroads of a handful of divergent storytelling traditions. The most immediate, of course, is the oft-re-visited (particularly, it seems, as of late) world of post-apocalyptic literature. Like much of his genre work, Fingerman uses clichés as something of a springboard toward his true intentions.

First is social satire. The end of the world offers Fingerman ample opportunity to poke fun at right wing warmongers, who, one almost immediately assumes, played a role in whatever it was that ultimately triggered such catastrophe. Here, as with his free flowing line style, is where the influence of the Kurtzman lineage of Mad artists really comes into play.

Fingerman’s cynicism, ultimately, is tempered by book’s other primary function as a love letter to his wife, Michele, a fact the artist makes no effort in masking, beginning with the book’s dedication, which reads, in part, “I don’t wish for the apocalypse (well, not too often), but if it does come it would be bearable with her by my side.”

It’s a sentiment that is often times overlooked in works of contemporary satire. It’s precisely this sentiment that keeps Fingerman’s work from getting too tangled in the weeds of cynicism, suggesting that, even in the direst of circumstances, there’s always room for a little bit of hope.

–Brian Heater