[14 December 2008]
Jeffrey Brown is no stranger to the memoir comic book. Most famous for his “Relationship Trilogy”, Clumsy, Unlikely and AEIOU, he has become quite popular among the indie crowd. While he has ventured outside of the realm from time to time, his main type of comic book is the memoir. Brown’s ability to have the reader relate and his ability to bring a sense of honesty and openness to his work is what makes his comics, including Little Things, sweet and poignant. You will laugh, you will cry, and most of all, you will want more.
His latest book, Little Things is a short-story collection of various snippets of his life. It jumps around and topics can vary, although relationships are very much at the forefront. Some might find that boring (to those people I say read Incredible Change-Bots, it’s awesome!), but there is a reason his relationship comics are his most popular. It is because he is able to let you into his world, a world that does not seem that unfamiliar to his readers. There are moments of sadness, joy and awkwardness that just about every reader will be find themselves relating to. Frankly, who is not able to relate to stories about love, heartache and awkward moments? While he admits in each book that these stories are certainly told from his point of view, sometimes the honesty that he is able to convey can make you cringe, and while you may know where the story is going or feel that he should know better, somehow it just makes you love him more.
His art style is certainly not for everyone. Most would not believe that the person who drew these stories went to Art College, but he did. Although quite sketchy and simple, his artwork conveys the story so well and lends humor to some of the situations. For instance, there is just something funny about the way Brown draws sexual situations. His art style also adds poignancy. You know he is not glossing things up. This is how he sees the situation and shows you what you need to know. Art does not need to need to be photo-realistic with a thousand details to tell a story and be intelligent at the same time.
While fans of Jeffrey Brown will surely love this comic, those who are not familiar with his work may want to read some of his earlier relationship works to get context, as a lot of the stories in this comic take place throughout events and times that have been touched upon in previous works. That is not to say that the book is completely impenetrable, just that having a background of his previous material will only enhance the reading of this one.
The only thing missing from this collection is an overall story. While most of his relationship comics have consisted mainly of short, one-or-two-page chapters, there is an overall story to each one. With this one, it is just what it says it is, a memoir in slices. Stories can jump from one period to the next and have nothing to do with the previous one. Brown does offer a brief appendix at the back to put the stories in a chronological context, but it can sometimes leave you wanting more of a narrative to follow. On the other hand, any fan of short story or short comics will love this collection.
Jeffrey Brown has spent the last few years entertaining us with his stories about meeting women, trying to have sex, and breaking up. In some ways, he is the Nick Hornby of comics, as he is able to make his main character loveable, someone you empathize with as he goes through one thing after another. He feels human, as he should, since the main character is Brown himself. He’s not afraid to show his commendable side, as well as his more pathetic one. You see him for what he really is, just another person like anyone else.