Scuzzy, cynical parables

Chris Kilduff's comics and works by Emily Coxe at AS220 Project Space
By GREG COOK  |  October 23, 2013

BAD KARMA One of Kilduff's twisted tales.

Chris Kilduff’s comics are scuzzy and barbed and vaguely disreputable the way punk comics are meant to be. His drawings, on view at AS220’s Project Space (93 Mathewson Street, Providence, through Oct 26), look as if he scratched them out with toothpicks or pocketknives dipped in mud. They’re like cynical parables from a bitterly funny world full of up-to-no-gooders and hoodwinkers and ne’er-do-wells and folks just trying to get by with a little dignity but the system always screws them in the end.

In one yarn, rednecks crash a fancy party and start a fight when the hosts try to give them the boot — which leads to police coming, which leads to illegal immigrants on the rich folks’ staff to be deported, which leads to the rich folks hiring broke college students, which leads to inflation in the price of milk, eggs, and other essential foodstuffs, which leads to rednecks having to pay more for beer with “money they gotta borrow from the government.” It’s like the cycle of shit-out-of-luck karma.

Kilduff’s tales are often grim. An innocent maintenance guy is wrongly executed for causing a malfunction that lead to a factory explosion. A night clerk at a gas station foils a robbery with his foul breath. The prison system screws a mentally ill guy. Some idiots steal a van, get coked up, and then, needing new tires for the hot vehicle, crash it into the waiting area of Tire Mart. A couple of white racist cops arrest a black guy for no damn reason. A guy calls in a favor from a buddy in the mob to get his friend’s stolen bike back from some skaters. Women sleep with men who aren’t their husbands and their furious husbands come hunting for revenge. Unfounded accusations of workplace theft are the last straw for a fired employee who goes on a shooting rampage.

The stories are interrupted by fake advertisements for Doritos, Budweiser, “Flatz Beer” and a “public service announcement from the Lottery Commission.”

In these comics, there are a lot of car accidents and boozing and fuckheads. The tales are short and often trail off. They’re funny, but they’re not jokes exactly. It’s like the miserable Darwin Awards hand of fate.

“I am interested in the humor and absurdity that the medium can provide,” Kilduff writes in a gallery statement. “I hope to develop a book.” He better damn well publish that book. And you should buy it.

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