HARD BOILED LOVE – A Tale Of Two Chickens – Phil Antahkarana ( 2021 Antahkarana Press)

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It is increasingly a chore to dig out decent underground comics that don’t falter at the first step of pandering to prevailing morals. Although I always look forward to a spin around the tables at the Dublin Comic Arts Festival, the takeaway is generally one of disappointment at the scrawls of decrepit personal and political virtuousness or slickly published but mind-numbingly 8th rate sci-fi. Everything always seems uptight, twee and stuck in the muddy notions of what a small press target audience should be. And while it would also get boring very quickly if everyone was trying to be another Mike Diana, I can’t help thinking that what I see is predominantly acceptable content to secure annual tables at these events and not get blacklisted.

…But small press was never meant to be about any of this shit. It needs to growl and snarl at you like a worryingly beautiful bundle of misspelt Xerox art brut or delve into that which social norms dictate cannot be expressed in real life conversation with upstanding citizens. Small bundles of joy from Snuff Comix are on the right track here, and even though whatever text exists is in Italian and I can’t understand a word of it, the publication resonates with a joyously sense of malcontent – These artists are performing self-exorcism in black and white.

Hard Boiled Love – A Tale Of Two Chickens is the first graphic novel from Phil Antahkarana. Across 60 perfect-bound pages, it doesn’t so much present a story arc as enable a rampage, fuelled by the drug-addled cravings of wayward poultry and an evolving cast of reprehensible characters. These include hapless bike gangs, incompetent law enforcement, Chinese businessmen, various wannabe Mafioso and a pony dominatrix who seems to be the only one with any grasp on reality. Without revealing too much or synopsising escapades, there’s no hero in this story… no real villains either for that matter… just a bunch of dispossessed pawns doing what they do best to the worst of their ability. A personal matter of concern is the all-too-brief appearance of Brendan-Mary, the retired builder turned tranny maid. We can only hope that he returns Jacob Marley style in one of the four currently planned sequels (sorry, that’s kind of a spoiler).

This is the sort of homegrown comic/graphic novel fodder that is needed to throw a rabid rat amongst the pigeons – It’s not perfect, but perfection is not a requirement of these sorts of underground publications. Hard Boiled Love – A Tale Of Two Chickens embraces themes of pulpy schlock and irreverent scumbaggery as its protagonists stumble through fuckwittery of self-made dilemmas. This is frenzied, brash and refreshingly despicable with absolutely no moral, message or virtue attached to it. Thank fuck.

The first print edition is limited to 250 copies… Get it here…

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Extracts from HARD BOILED LOVE (left – pg14, right – pg18)

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