Review: The Milk & Cheese Collection

Finally, the Dairy Products Gone Bad have all of their violent, hooch-fueled rages collected in one place.

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson

Milk & Cheese

Like the Pet Rock, Sea Monkeys, and the Garbage Pail Kids, inspiration in pop culture can come from fucked up places. Take Milk and Cheese, the vile, repulsive, mean spirited, hate filled and often hilarious adventures of, well, Milk and Cheese, two dairy products who have gone oh so foul. Milk and Cheese Writer/Artist Evan Dorkin was one of the first real trendsetters in the new underground comics movement in the late 80s/early 90s.

Along with things like Hate Comics and Ghost World, Milk and Cheese took the lessons learned by underground legends like R. Crumb, Spain Rodriguez, Harvey Pekar and others and pushed those boundaries even further. In the case of Milk and Cheese, Evan Dorkin took them to heart, as his creation is more along the lines of the chaos of the '60s era comics movement than any of his peers. Whereas the new underground focused on stories of disassociated youth, Dorkin kept his work insanely violent, visceral and bizarre.

To celebrate the twenty-one years of Milk and Cheese, Dark Horse has combined every single strip ever put out into one slick and shiny volume. It’s a beautiful hardcover book, with tons of supplemental material and chapter sections detailing specific eras of the lactose duo. It’s kind of interesting that a comic series so bent on completely uprooting the established idea of the medium would be put out in such a sparkly collection, but for those of us who have only dribs and drabs of the history, it kicks a lot of ass. I don’t usually toss around the idea of not being able to put something down, but this collection is so well done and the work so wonderful, I read it cover to cover. Granted, I had some help from the left-handed cigarette, but I digress.

With all the accolades from his peers, including Patton Oswalt, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Frank Miller, what really matters here is the work. Evan Dorkin is a maestro with the disturbed. Milk And Cheese is crude, violent, mean, and often disgusting. The duo drown their superintendent in their own vomit, they beat people up, harass them and do it within a world that teems with a stink of the underbelly. The world Milk and Cheese exist in his a hyperbole of the worst of humanity and pop culture. Dorkin takes aim at the things that he hates by raising the volume up to ten on everything. It sounds bizarre to say this, but Milk and Cheese is loudest damn comic you’ll ever read. The work is so manic, the ideas flying at you so fast, that it becomes a frenzy of noise. I caught myself turning the page a wincing a few times at something that jumped out at me.

Dorkin’s genius comes in minutiae. If the devil is in the details, then Milk and Cheese may be Satan’s handbook. Beneath all the imagery, there is a really intelligent satirist at work. Dorkin levels his shotgun at the ghastly state of man and pop culture and fires off insight disguised as vulgarity. Don’t get me wrong, the shit here is sick, but it is also smart and that is why it’s so funny. Milk and Cheese isn’t for everybody. Dorkin’s rough edges, his black and white multi-faceted panels might be too busy for somebody who only digs capes and tights. For the rest of us, the ones who marvel (no pun intended) at the power of thinking outside the superhero box, this collection of Milk and Cheese gives clarity to the mission of Evan Dorkin and his incredible gifts.