Reviews of the first 50 pages of local releases.
WORKING STIFFS. Don't let the comic-book gore on the cover fool you: Lucy Leitner's debut novel is a densely observed, wickedly funny social satire that just happens to be about zombies breaking out of the South Side pharmaceutical plant where they're enslaved as factory drones. The premise is that a former meth dealer turned corporate savior zombifies kidnapped street people to staff production lines where they churn out Pro-Well drugs like Be-Gone-orrea. But the book, on horror-themed indie Necro Publications, is mostly an opportunity for Leitner herself to feast on social types like antihero Hank, a 28-year-old misanthrope, and lifestyle-hopper Janice, both Pro-Well employees. And of course, in the great Romero tradition, Leitner spears such implicit zombies as cubicle workers, South Side partiers and Steelers fans. It's a quick but satisfying read, borne along on Leitner's facility with one-liners.
SHORT WORKS. To call this collection of poems, stories and essays, by legendary Bloomfield character Victor E. Navarro Jr., "rambling" is merely descriptive. The pieces date from 1985 to 2006, and muse on everything from the military-industrial complex to what Navarro did on a random winter's day. His sensibility is admittedly molded by psychological trials and various pharmaceuticals. Yet for much of this 187-page Six Gallery Press paperback, Navarro's writing is compulsively readable, as in the zen meditation: "At day's end comes the night all filled / with mystery about the future's claims." And then there's the succinctly potent "I Was Once God": "I was once God. / Look what they did to me! / You see, I should have never / given them the key. / Now they've locked me up / in an endless dream."
DON'T COME BACK. You might not know what to make of this roughly 160-page graphic novel by local artist Nate McDonough, but you'll probably keep reading. The protagonists are a working-class high school layabout named Dan and his pal, but the cast also includes a skeletal chicken monster, a severed arm with a life of its own, and two angels falling from heaven while fighting dirty. This Six Gallery Press book has a sort of fever-dream narrative drive. Most importantly, McDonough's drawing is aces: His thick, bold lines equally suggest dark caricature, macabre hallucination and farcical domestic comedy.