James McShane, writer/artist
self-published, September 2009
I forget what I paid for it. $10, maybe?
This thick little minicomic does a lot of things right. First of all there’s the format itself: cardstock pages, folded into a fat little brick, then cut, I believe, with a bandsaw. It’s a delight to hold and let your fingers trace the bumpy edges of the pages; it’s like the anti-newsprint. Then there’s the idea for the concept itself, which won me over the second I figured out what it was: a chronicling of the contents and environs of his childhood home inspired by his mom’s moving out of it. Most of the book is just a shot of a room, a door, a lamp, a tree, a driveway, a hose–one small drawing per page, so intimate I wonder if they were drawn from memory. Flipping through the book’s thick stock ends up feeling like opening a tiny door into this house with each turn of the page. Moreover, McShane glides effortlessly in and out of deviations from the standard operating procedure–there’s a funny sequence of him popping up into the dusty attic and wondering what the heck’s up there (turns out to be nothing); an evocatively minimalist depiction of him and his mom strolling through the neighborhood, juxtaposing little suburban landscapes and still lifes with shots of the pair looking around against a blank background. Finally, McShane sticks the landing with a quietly bravura sequence in which his memories of the house begin to blend together even as he rakes its yard, with a tree suddenly appearing in front of a door and an obviously cherished duck-shaped lamp superimposing itself upon nearly everything, a focal point for years and years of lived experience. McShane’s Porcellino-influenced style is a perfectly breezy and simple complement to this perfectly breezy and simple comic, which nails this specific set of circumstances and sensations just about as well as you could imagine. Very well done.