New Jobs

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Comic book, 2013
 
Dash Shaw has put out very little work since the 2009 release of his Unclothed Man in the 35th Century AD short story collection, and New Jobs is the first of the burst of new material he recently released that I’ve read, so I feel like I’m more or less back at square one with experiencing and interpreting his work. And that’s the biggest strength of Shaw’s comics- whether you enjoy them or not, they’re layered and complex in a way that fosters investigation and discussion. Even people I know who don’t enjoy Shaw’s work spend a few minutes explaining what they don’t like about it, seemingly unable to simply dismiss it.

New Jobs is dense, packing a lot of moments onto each of its tiny pages, in contrast to the fluffier, widescreen cinema method of storytelling currently in vogue in mainstream comics. I call them moments instead of panels because there are no borders. In fact there’s a complete disregard for the grid system at work here. Moments are placed with only pacing in mind, which, in addition to the Sharpie-imbued smoothness of the drawings, gives the reading experience a fluidity that suggests a different cinematic experience- animation. The drawings seem to move as they melt into one another. 

Shaw has a similar stripped down approach toword genre. New School isn’t quite science-fiction, but he adapts the society the characters live in to suit the themes of the story. By only using the most efficient parts of the various storytelling strategies at play, Shaw has managed to pack a lot of ideas into a very small package.

Exit Wounds

Comic book, 2007

Engrossing plot with two of the most down to Earth protagonists I’ve ever seen blinks at the last minute with an ending that makes uncomfortably direct eye contact with you and loudly asks “SO WHADDYA THINK HAPPENS” 3.5

Aya of Yop City

Comic book, 2008

Is the sophomore slump a product of the artist or the viewer? Is it harder for an artist to do the same thing a second time without repeating themselves, or are the viewers’ expectations set by their initial view of the work impossible to match the second time out? Either way, I really loved the first volume of Aya and was underwhelmed by the second, Aya of Yop City. Beyond the fact that Yop City wasn’t a surprise to me I felt that the colors were duller, there were more signifigant storytelling problems and Aya, easily the most interesting and charismatic character in the series, is barely in the book. Instead we get a bunch of baby drama and dimwitted men. The first volume had a number of disparate storylines that all swung around and smashed into each other, but this one seemed to leave many of it’s plots unresolved. Perhaps with the freedom of knowing there will be another volume after this they felt that they were able to do that, but it made for an abrupt, unsatisfying ending for me. And none of the scenes seemed to be longer than two pages, which made the pacing a bit grating. It’s still good, I guess. But I’m hoping that the energy gets ramped back up in the third volume. 3


Tamara Drewe

Comic book, Serialized 2005-2007 this edition released 2008

Listen Tamara Drewe, we can’t see each other any more. It’s not you, it’s me. We just don’t connect. I’m sure you’re lovely. Tom Spurgeon said some nice things about you and even included you on his best of the year list (although, with a caveat), but there’s just nothing here for me to be interested in. I can understand your charm; a bunch of educated, foppish white people that all live in a small town have their lives shook up with the arrival of foxy young Tamara Drewe. They clumsily, amusingly navigate their middle aged lives and marriages which, I assume, are given new meaning after the tornado Ms Drewe blows (ah-hem) through town. But I’m just not charmed by those things. Add to that the amount of work you take, you’re awful thick and awful dense, and I’m just going to have to break it off, fifteen pages in. Best of luck with your movie!


Aya

Comic book, 2006

Well, this was a big surprise. Aya has got to be the best new comic I’ve read in a long time. It probably helps that I knew nothing about it going in, but after reading it I can only assume that there’s some level of hype behind it. A story about ambitious girls in an ambitious place (The Ivory Coast in the 70’s), the book follows it’s three young female protagonists and shows us the effects that their goals and priorities have on themselves and their loved ones. It seems light in content, but the depth of the characters and the weight of their interactions are not. The characterization and dialogue are fantastic, but they are perhaps bested by the art. I don’t think I’ve seen artwork this pitch perfect… I’m tempted to say maybe ever? It’s almost reminiscent of Guy Davis’ work on BPRD, with it’s cartoony sketchiness and vibrant colors. The color, my God, the color. I believe the same artist penciled, inked and colored this thing, and he is in total command. It seemed to kind of just stop rather than having an ending, but I had assumed the story’s punchline was common knowledge halfway through the book, so maybe something went wrong there for me. The introduction is a must read, especially if you know as little about the Ivory Coast as I do, and the heady ideas it presents give the story a tiny bit of weight that it might not have had on it’s own: that a story about ordinary people in Africa, one that doesn’t involve war or famine, is a sadly original one. 4


The Education of Hopey Glass

Comic book, 2009

Man. How the fuck do you review a Jaime Love and Rockets book? This seems to be a problem that a lot of people have, as you hear a lot of people talk about how Jaime’s books are their total fave, but not a lot of talk about why or what his books are even about. People are right, they’re really good. A solid argument could be made for them being the best comics ever. So why is it so hard? Here are some possible reasons: they’re somewhat indistinct from each other, there are a lot of them with no clear point of entry (although The AV Club tried to give you one a while back) and, on the surface, they might appear to be fairly light. The Education of Hopey Glass, the latest collection of Jaime’s work originally serialized in Love and Rockets, is one of the best ever and requires the least amount of work to figure out what’s going on beneath the surface. But it doesn’t feel blunt, it just feels like we’ve reached a big turning point in the life of Hopey Glass, a main character of the series who has felt fairly adrift for the last two or so decades. Hopey, as fiercely an independent and anti-authoritarian character as they come, seems to settle down a bit and get a real job (as a teacher’s aide), it doesn’t feel sad or like she’s selling out her punk roots. It feels like finally, maybe Hopey can slow down and be happy for a bit. Maybe she can stop and look around. It’s a very rewarding turn in the life of a character that’s been fighting for a long, long time. Unfortunately, you really have to have been reading Love and Rockets for a long time to get the full impact of it. But, then again, in the story arc after this one everyone gets superpowers and starts flying around the universe so, you know, whatever. 5