Zine Review: The Constant Smile

ZINES_The-Constant-SmileThe Constant Smile
Comic, Adam Kuphos and MJ Alexander, snartha.tumblr.com, $5

Web comic artist MJ Alexander makes a foray into print with co-writer Adam Kuphos in this short and weird-ass tale. Essentially a fantasy comic, its tropes eventually yield to the absurd. Two survivors of a destroyed village make their escape through the woods, and encounter The Constant Smile: some kind of cross of a brontosaurus, a chicken and a toothy-grinning lion. Maybe that sounds like something you’d expect to encounter in a fantasy story, but you’re wrong. The creature’s face looks like it belongs on a baby’s shaker toy. A leery, anthropomorphized lion face atop a giant neck. Alexander’s black and white art makes effective use of grayscale shading to create minimal landscapes that still evoke an ominous setting for the Disney-like appearance of the characters. These dudes look like adaptations of the princes from The Little Mermaid and Cinderella respectively. Alexander does a lot of storytelling with glances between characters and individual facial expressions. When they first meet in the forest, the several panels of visual interaction between the two humans and The Constant Smile accomplish a good deal of narrative and are amusing in a what-the-hell-is-going-on kind of way. The main gag here is the underlying awkwardness of The Constant Smile — always there grinning — while the two survivors sort out their fate. We get no explanation of where the thing came from, what it’s doing there — nothing. And that’s it! Track this one down if you like your fantasy fast and weird. (Joshua Barton)