The last Glen Baxter book I read was The Billiard Table Murders, about fifteen years ago. Like that title, Loomings Over the Suet is a mystery of sorts, full of police procedure and deduction – albeit with fish in buckets and weird looking radio transmitters. And alphorns.
The narrative doesn’t really make sense, but anyone au fait with Baxter’s style won’t expect it to. If laid out on a page, there’d probably be an A4-worth of story. You can read the book in fifteen minutes or so. But then, you’re not going to be reading Baxter for narrative coherence.
I think that’s why this book fails. I’ve always found Baxter’s work to be more meaningful when it’s one frame in isolation – much like Gary Larson’s The Far Side (which Baxter is perhaps unfairly compared to), the isolated weirdness is what makes the stuff work. It’s also what forgives the purposefully amateur art style; it’s as if a kid is trying to emulate the diagrammatic sharpness of Hergé’s Tintin series while listening to The Goon Show. It’s full of cowboys, hard-boiled crims, gumshoes and the occasional arcane device.
Individually, the absurdist panels (or the straight narrative panels, come to that) will work, but when strung together they often appear a stream of jarring non-sequiturs. Shout-outs to Twin Peaks are always welcome, but suet ain’t no garmonbozia, if you know what I mean.
I’m not certain if I’ve changed in the time since I read Baxter last, but the jokes (such as they are) seemed a little forced this time around. It’s funny? On occasion, yes. But there seems to be a little bit too much reaching for gosh, gee, aren’t-I-strange stuff here. It seems more adolescent than anything else. Again, it’d be good to read a collection of non-sequential work to see if the sting is still there. I certainly cracked a grin at some of the panels here, but overall it didn’t hold me.