Comics Time: not simple

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not simple

Natsume Ono, writer/artist

Viz Signature/Ikki, January 2010

320 pages

$14.99

Buy it from Amazon.com

I’m gonna go so far as to say don’t waste your time with this one. Sure, the cover makes it look like an imported slice-of-lifer of the sort that’s at least surface-level appealing to American altcomix readers like me. But inside is a story so rife with tragedy, maudlin melodrama, and ludicrous implausibility it feels less like, say, Solanin and more like something you’d waste a couple Saturday afternoon hours watching on Lifetime. Its confusing intro at first makes the book seem like it’s going to be about a totally different person and scenario and then gets barely a dozen pages before lobbing the first in an onslaught of absurd coincidences, all of which come in lieu of a plot that emerges organically from character. When we finally do get around to telling the story of our protagonist Ian–a young man recovering from abuse and hoping to reunite with the older sister he suspects was secretly his birth mother–it quickly becomes clear that Ono’s art isn’t up to the task she sets up for herself, in which the characters’ appearances and who looks like whom are a major plot point. She’s not really making up for it with style or layout either: Her angular line and big-eyed emo-haired impossibly slim characters are pleasant enough for a time, but they wouldn’t look out of place in an undistinguished minicomic being sold at a MoCCA table, and her panels feel cramped and at times illogically placed. There’s a comparatively strong, thoughtful, intriguing subplot-cum-A-plot involving a young writer who befriends Ian with the intention of writing a novel about his tragic life but quietly falls in love with him. It nearly rights the ship, but only nearly, especially once it’s capsized once again by the most over-the-top plot twist of the lot. I’ll say this for the book: it reads like a breeze–even if that’s in part because the art is slight and you’re racing through the narrative since it doesn’t reward dwelling.

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