COCKROACH, by Joe Garber, is a 70-page graphic novella about Rocky, a psychotic killer. This is a highly stylized comics narrative in the spirit of a long line of contemporary thrillers going back to the original “Psycho” novel by Robert Bloch. You navigate between the grisly content and the artful handling. Garber’s comics take a detached ironic tone, not so much focusing on the blood and guts but on a suspenseful story with a few hints of dark humor.
Garber draws all his people as if they are a bags held up by flimsy wireframe skeletons: slightly deflated, no muscle tone, minimal facial expressions. That’s more of that detached irony at play. And, hey, it can get pretty spooky. You are never supposed to get close to Rocky. When he commits his crimes, it happens in a casual manner. With very little invested in the character, I still found myself steadily turning the pages. I have to hand it to Garber for creating a very creepy yet engaging work.
In one scene, Rocky murders both a man and woman in their bed while they’re having sex. Within this cartoony context, the level of irony reaches an uncanny meta-level. There’s an intriguing little twist that abruptly shifts the focus off of Rocky and leaves you wondering what exactly has been going on in this story. Garber, by the way, was one of the contributors to the brash, and now defunct, INTRUDER comics anthology series. It was a place to showcase a lot of Seattle cartoonist talent.
This story is part of a much bigger vision. Garber has a line of various titles. For instance, one of his comics is CANYONLANDS with the main character Carl, who “dives deep into his heartbreak and finds what is at the end of it.” Or, another example, is Garber’s 2013 graphic novel THE ODYSSEY OF BLUE BOY, where he illustrated 20 chapters contributed by total strangers.
COCKROACH is a 70-page comic which you can find at Joe Garber’s website right here.