by Jeffrey Brown
Top Shelf Productions
One of the most endearing qualities of Jeffrey Brown’s work has been its amateur quality. Most of his strips are done in simple pen and ink, his characters given thin arms and fingers and the perspectives often skewed. That quality draws you in to his comics, easily deeply involving you in his often painful autobiographical stories and giving you the impression that you could easily take up a career in cartooning if you really wanted to.
The strongest aspect of Brown’s work is his storytelling skill, as he has proven in the books Clumsy and Unlikely, both of which have told detailed stories of relationships he has had. His work is wonderfully self-deprecating, honest and very easy to relate to.
So, to have these quick little tales jumbled together in this thin volume is a bit of a let-down in comparison. There are pieces that hearken back to his previous graphic novels, such as the painful tale Okay, Bye (September 11, 2001), which parallels his efforts to reconnect with a girl and the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, and the extended exploration of Brown’s on-again/off-again relationship that starts off with the quick and dirty retelling (titled “I’m Not Your Girlfriend, Jeffrey”) and then follows it up with three closer looks at key interactions between the two.
The rest of the collection is given over to funny or touching interludes (particularly the very sweet story of Brown helping an old woman cross the street) or just silly glimpses into Brown’s mindset (the strip of Jesus appearing in Brown’s heart and reminding him that he is “a horrible person”).
Although Top Shelf should be commended for putting this collection together so as to help those super fans complete their Jeffrey Brown library, those seeing his work for the first time would be better advised to go seek out his graphic novels and come back to this later.