Comics Time: Uptight #4

Uptight #4
Jordan Crane, writer/artist
Fantagraphics, December 2010
36 pages
Buy it from Fantagraphics

It’s the details that distinguish what Jordan Crane does. He’s not breaking any conceptual or thematic or formal ground in the two stories comprising this fourth issue of his old-school solo-anthology alternative-comic-book series, both of which are continuations of previous stories: “Trash Night” picks up the misadventures of a working-class couple whose female half is conducting a secret affair, while “Dark Day” is another chapter in the saga of Simon and Jack, the school-hating kid and his giant cat who starred in Crane’s all-ages graphic novel The Clouds Above. The latter story is part of your basic “kid explores a magical world beyond the watchful eyes of adults” set-up, while the former presents love and sex through a sordid, hate-fucky lens, an approach I’ll always associate with the 1990s filmography of Jeremy Irons. But none of that accounts for the sticky, unexpected images he pours into these familiar templates. For “Trash Night,” that means the perversely sensual lifelessness of the wife’s eyes, mouth, and breasts as the husband cradles her dead body in a mordant daydream (a recurring theme for Crane at this point); the memorable specificity of the argument that sends her back into the arms of her lover (vegetable oil!); the out-of-nowhere suddenness and savagery with which he attempts to strip her naked when she returns home; the shadowy, samurai-esque way he holds aloft a rake before bringing it down on the body of a raccoon who bit him; the unexpected and believably unglamorous way their bout of make-up sex begins (with him sitting on the toilet as she puts neosporin on his wound); and even the multiple meanings of the title itself, which could refer not just to the husband’s chores but to his likely self-identification as white trash and to the quality of his experiences during the time period. “Dark Day” is equally cleverly named in that it quietly ties this much frothier all-ages affair to the grim day-in-the-life we just read about, and uses irony to draw our attention to how much lighter this strictly black-and-white strip feels compared to the dingy, depressive graytones of the earlier comic. Here, Crane uses his wispy line as a way to cram visual cacophony into each panel, conveying how seeing an adult-created and administered world in disarray can be frightening to a child — the principal’s office, all books and papers and plaques and diplomas precariously overhanging the principal’s ogre-like frame, is at least as menacing as the shadows and icicles and smoke that Simon and Jack and Rosalyn must navigate and escape. At this stage in his career it’s quite clear how impeccable Crane’s technique is, both as an artist and as a designer; I think it’s equally important to note that what he does with that technique is just as considered and just as well-executed.

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One Response to Comics Time: Uptight #4

  1. Bless Jordan Crane. I’d pay $3.95 just for that cover and nothing inside. I’m going to be saying “hate-fucky” the rest of the day as I look at the Don’t Hang Up print in my office.

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