Written by Clifford Meth with Illustrations by Dave Gutierrez
IDW Publishing $14.99, ISBN: 978-1-60010422-0
Reviewed by Paul Ewert
Billboards is a satiric short story collection from Clifford Meth. This quirky set of speculative fiction stories reminds us that the winds of popularity, politics and commerce are dangerous ways to orient one’s moral compass.
The title story, Billboards, gives us the tale of two people who are making money effortlessly by being physical advertisements for corporations thanks to biometric tattooing. It latches on to the vain attention-getting behaviors used to attract mass media interest like a rabid pit bull. The main characters are enjoyable and caught in contradiction after contradiction. They use carefully crafted laissez-faire methods and attitudes to get an unsuspecting public to notice them and by default their corporate brands. Yet their true laissez-faire relationship creates a situation that drops opposing corporate objectives between them. Their efforts to resolve this conflict draw a very stark and unorthodox resolution.
Dave Gutierrez provides illustrations for Billboards. Each of his illustrations helps underscore an element of Meth’s story, thus adding the visual depth to the world of Billboards.
Queers is another fine story in the collection. In it Meth takes the stereotypical American family and turns it upside down then turns it inside out. This short story could be described as an American version of Gerd Bratenberg’s Egalia’s Daughters with a coming of age twist. It is a wonderful reminder of the battle between popular morality and being true to your own self.
Other stories in the collection introduce us to the hyper-cerebral billionaire CEO Jonah Zwillman, a coming out story as written by the Olympian gods, an encounter with an angelic succubus and a writer drunk on power he has over a devoted fan.
This is the kind of book that takes you away from your daily worries and brings you in the back door of the looking glass. You find yourself thinking your know how Meth will resolve the story, but he surprises you with thoughtful resolve.