INCREDIBLY CAPABLE CRONE: a book review

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Lizibeta Snitt’s surprisingly popular  Incredibly Capable Crone  series is a trilogy of graphic novels in free verse. The title character is a woman beyond a certain age, a battle-hardened dissident who cut her street fighting teeth on the front lines of Nixon’s crackdown, against campus protests, in the 1970s. TZ (the Crone, who remains otherwise nameless) wasn’t at Kent State the day the National Guard fired live rounds into crowds of student protesters (killing four), but she could have been, being roughly student age at the time.  Like Batman,  and years before she took on the identity of the Incredibly Capable Crone, TZ  vowed to fight evil with her righteous, higher-level ass-kicking abilities.

Long before the Black Bloc (who everyone knows are agents provocateurs, in any case), she ramped the stakes up at every march, sit-in, vigil, strike and boycott she attended, defending her radical comrades against excessive authoritarian force. She would break up arrests, knock out riot cops and bust open the fascist “Black Maria” vans to liberate rounded-up marchers.  When TZ accidentally killed four cops who were raping a Black radical poet, in the back of a squad car, during an armed Black Panther march through Maywood, Illinois (1974), TZ went underground. She left the country and renounced lethal violence for forty years. High on the FBI’s wanted list for decades, she managed to elude capture for the poetically ironic reason that the authorities assumed their fugitive was a man. (Which recalls, in a way, one of Incredibly Capable Crone’s tag lines: The Super Heroine So Naturally Invisible She Doesn’t Even Need A Fucking Mask.)

That is Incredibly Capable Crone’s creation myth /back story, which is covered in Kafkaesque detail in the second volume of the  trilogy. Opening the first book of the narrative arc violently,  in media res, without context or explanation, artist Juanita Huff’s  moody, often breathtaking chiaroscuro is more than up to the task of sucking the reader into the novel’s action-packed reality. Every wrinkle of the Crone’s time-eroded face is lovingly detailed as she uses her uncanny martial arts abilities to wipe out the entire editorial staff of a vapid millennial Lit Zine called, with irritating perfection, La Fedora Press.

After many operatic panels of full-page carnage, we learn, in dense-but-conversational free verse,  that the Incredibly Capable Crone had been trying to get her short stories, poems, parodies, novellas and film reviews noticed for years but, alas, she is far too old to get published. And therein lies the brilliant (and wonderfully risky) black comedy of the Incredibly Capable Crone books. Years after the ethically ambiguous, though probably justified, violence of her street fighting years, she has come out of retirement to bring bloody retribution not to corrupt politicos, corporate psychopaths or killer cops but, rather, to… The 21st Century Virtual Literary Scene.

No soi-disant editor with a trust fund, a martini in hand and a harem of interns, is safe. The very first text of Book One is a poem called “30 under 30”, skewering commercial poetry sites’  tendency to feature award-winning young things who look like pouting refugees from a copy of Mademoiselle magazine:   no ugly bunnies in the bunch/ just hotties….

Precisely where the depth of hard-won talent/ life-experience/ accumulated knowledge and decades of poetic practise would seem to be needed most, this book warns us, these qualities are foolishly debased and discarded in deference to the grim immediacy of a venal, narcissistic, stridently anti-literate market. But not without a price.

Snitt and Huff serve up the witty, often gory,  morally ambivalent treats with panache. From the success of the series (may the Incredibly Capable Crone live on beyond this sumptuously appointed trilogy: my prayer to the gods of subversive populism), it’s obvious that the two middle-aged Auteurs are fulfilling a growing need, out there in the postPost landscape.

The possibly troubling question: the need for what… ?

  • Incredibly Capable Crone by Lizabeta Snitt is published by Full Court Press (£16.99). To order a copy for £14.44 go to Cock-a-Snookshop.com. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
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