Thursday Comics Hangover: The final countdown

Two more to go. The 18th issue of Intruder, Seattle’s free, invitation-only comics anthology, is available around town right now, which means only issues 19 and 20 are left before the whole operation folds. Everything seems more acute when a countdown timer’s running, of course, so it’s hard to say for sure, but this issue of Intruder certainly feels more…Intruder-ier than ever before: thicker, full of a wider variety of comics, even livelier than usual.

One of the high points of this issue is Tom Van Deusen’s “Autobiographical Comic Strip,” in which a seemingly mundane trip to the UW Medicine building in Ravenna is upturned by some delightful physical comedy involving a duck. Van Deusen’s art keeps getting tighter and more interesting with every new pages of comics he produces; he’s starting to develop a line that looks very similar to former Seattle cartoonist Jason Lutes, only with more of a sense of fun.

Other strips in this issue share that absurdist comedy vibe. Brandon Lehmann’s dark-but-funny “Stranger Danger” is about a wizard who keeps alternating attempts to lure a young boy into his van with exasperated outbursts when the boy is too easily duped. Seth Goodkind reaches out to a horrific newspaper comic strip deity in hopes of discovering the secrets of comedy. Marc Palm’s strip investigates the weird world of sexually experimental music.

But this issue of Intruder also presents some social commentary — “Urban Distress,” by Marie Hausauer delivers a modest proposal combining haute couture and Seattle’s homelessness problem — and an earnest David Bowie tribute from David Lasky, along with surrealist art pieces like Tim Miller’s full-page illustration of…well...something — a quasi-religious pin-up featuring a bunch of arms and shapes and white space that looks like it could change your life under just the right blend of hallucinogenic drugs. In fact, Intruder has even less of a house style than it did a few months ago. The issue sprays from earnest to painfully ironic, from dense craftsmanship to abstract carelessness. If you can find a thematic link between all these strips, you’re a more astute reader than I.

Since Intruder’s organizers announced the impending end of the magazine, Intruder has only become more interesting. It feels less like a ferocious, impassioned mission statement for Seattle’s comics community, the way it did when Intruder first started, and more like a celebration of itself. With each passing issue, Intruder looks more like Intruder as it prepares to disappear forever. These are the issues that young cartoonists will try to evoke in years to come when they put together their own anthologies. I can hear them now — telling each other, “no, we should make it more like Intruder,” and everyone will know exactly what they mean by that.