The Lovely Horrible Stuff
by Eddie Campbell (Top Shelf, 2012)

The artist behind From Hell, Alec and Bacchus embarks on his strangest journey yet, into the world of finance, in a sort of From Hell, Part Deux.

The Lovely Horrible Stuff is divided into two parts, the first concerning Eddie Campbell's personal relationship with money and the second being a travelogue of his trip to the small island of Yap. While parts of both sections are perceptive in some places, the end result is a somewhat disjointed affair that ends up being tedious and, frankly, rather dull.

Even the art is a letdown. Campbell's distinctive "scribbly-ness" pen-and-ink style is enhanced by the use of photos for background material. Unfortunately, none of it seems to be to good effect. Photos can be used to great advantage in creating graphic novels but the end result here seems to be as confusing as the story itself. It was difficult to comprehend just what exactly was being depicted. The panel sequences were repetitive, especially in the Yap section. It also doesn't help that the panels themselves are tiny, making it hard to distinguish details that might have helped flesh out the narration a bit more. Additionally, the lettering was nearly incomprehensible.

Small hard-to-see pictures, small hard-to-see lettering and small hard-to-understand plot. Not a good combination.

Creating income can be torturous. Managing can seem impossible. Lucre is fascinating, as the plotlines of a million movies can attest. Learning to manage money is -- for most people, anyway -- a reverse-engineer process wherein knowledge is gained from mistakes.

Yet there is more discomfort than empathy at being faced with Campbell's personal circumstances in regards to his monetary woes. Despite being admirably careful on a day-to-day basis, not to mention being talented enough to earn a decent living, in a very tough field, to support a wife and two children in comfort, he ends up in some rather delicate situations in spite of several red flags that were raised well in advance. He then wonders how he ended up turning into a curmudgeon about money, though apathy is too strong by that point to rouse much concern.

The section about Yap is overlong and perhaps not as accessible as he might have thought. Most people aren't going to read about money unless it affects them personally. A history lesson about a small island where people use stone discs as currency is not really going to have the impact that was intended.

Campbell does have some success with drawing parallels between the global financial meltdown that began in 2008 and personal responsibility. If he'd stuck with exploring that I might have found the book more interesting.

review by
Mary Harvey

8 December 2012

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