Jeffrey Brown, writer/artist
Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, March 2008
It had been a while since I read a full-length Jeffrey Brown comic starring Jeffrey Brown, and I’d forgotten what a unique experience a Jeffrey Brown autobio page is. Reproduced at roughly the same size at which they’re drawn, Brown’s pages are almost always stuffed with six square panels, which are themselves crammed with penned detail. But despite containing so much visual information, the casual feel of Brown’s line and portraiture make the page come across more mellow than manic. Meanwhile, and particularly when compared to the many other sketchy (by design or necessity) slice-of-life efforts that have sprung up in Brown’s wake, his pop-eyed characters pop from their backgrounds, which themselves feel like fully realized and inhabitable spaces. The total effect is really accomplished and unique, and it turns out I missed it quite a bit.
This is the part of the review where I was gonna argue that in these ways the art mirrors the story, or nonstory, presented in the book itself: a sea of detail saved from unpleasant obsessiveness by a breezily directionless presentation, against which notable specifics stand out. This observation has the virtue of being true, but I feel like reading that much into what’s going on sort of defeats the purpose of the book. While Brown argues in his introduction that the point is that tiny, seemingly insignificant moments–coffee with friends, awkward movie-watching experiences–can take on the same importance as truly life-changing events–gall-bladder surgery, witnessing a horrific car crash, meeting the father of the mother of your child–to me the book ultimately demonstrates something slightly but vitally different: Those insignificant moments remain insignificant, yet occupy a disproportionately high rank in our mental catalog of memories, and the resulting stew of momentousness and meaninglessness is in the end what makes our lives what they are. Both are indispensable.