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Can't Get No

Written and illustrated by Rick Veitch
DC/Vertigo
352 pages, $19.99
ISBN: 1401210597

There's no polite way to say this: Rick Veitch's new graphic novel, Can't Get No, is a pretentious, semi-comprehensible mess.

A seemingly endless parade of ham-fisted allegory and unreadable prose, this book traces the downfall of a New York City marketing executive named Chadwick Roe against the backdrop of the 9/11 destruction of the Twin Towers by fundamentalist Islamic terrorists. Chadwick's business prospects have seemingly been shattered by lawsuits over a super-permanent marker manufactured by his company. A night of drinking and drugs leaves him unconscious in the hands of mischievious, artsy pranksters, who strip him naked and cover his body head-to-toe with pseudo-tribal linework drawn with the very markers that brought about his despair. From there — and after witnessing the 9/11 attacks — Chadwick embarks upon a soul-seeking journey through an endless, mindnumbing forest of iconography, symbolic situations and clichés, his new markings branding him in the eyes of everyone he meets, his travels ultimately culminating in a life-changing reversal at a thinly-disguised Burning Man.

The action takes place in pantomine, the dialogue replaced by ponderous, purple free-verse poetry. I tried to follow the text for more than five pages at a time — really, I did — but it just drove me out of the story and made me set the book down with each attempt. Ultimately, I was able to make it to the end by ignoring the words and reading the visual storytelling, which cut down on the embarrassingly bad metaphors but not by nearly enough. The lowest point occurs when Chadwick stumbles upon an abandoned theme park originally built for the American Bicentennial, a weed-infested, open-air funhouse littered with giant busts of former Presidents and people inexplicably wandering around. (Look, a couple dressed like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio! And Marilyn's holding up a can of beer! Ain't that America?) He eventually ends up inside the bust of John F. Kennedy — a bullet-wound sized hole rotted out in the back of his head, naturally — which serves as the home of a woman dressed as Jackie who looks great nude in silhouette, but up close and in the light is revealed to possess a mangled upper lip and bad teeth. Chadwick kisses her anyway, seemingly for no other reason than because that's the symbolic thing to do in such a situation. The make-up then falls away, revealing a perfect mouth that laughs as him as she departs. Can't Get No never stops presenting scenes like this to the reader.

 

Image, above right: Searchin' for America, Can't Get No-style, ©2006 Rick Veitch.
This essay appeared on the then-website of The Comics Journal sometime between 2006 and 2008.

 

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