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posted May 23, 2005
Self-Published (Xeric Grant; Distributed by Alternative), 32 pages, $2.95
Nick Jeffrey's story about an incident on the baseball field gets its best moments out of describing the details of the various games in which the narrator (the author) played as a not-very-skilled right fielder. Jeffrey gets the right mix of rinky-dink and staggering importance down, with emphasis on the chintzy parts, like the ultimate compliment for the Catholic school team to appear in the church newsletter. He also gets the flow of the small-time baseball right and the character desigs are all over the place in a good way. Not only do characters like Nick and his father work as blunt, cartoony embodiments of their personalities, the contrast in physical appearance between the two speaks volumes about their inability to connect.
Centerfield had its start as a university writing assignment, and I suspect that some of the things that may have worked in prose kind of fall apart in comics. There are moments where the visual contrast between moments is a little to jarring, and weakens the narrator's crediblity, such as a shift from a very kids-looking birthday parties and teen pregnancies. Maybe Jeffrey's school life contained such a startling dichotomy, but it's not addressed fully elsewhere in the book, so it feels like an effect regardless of its veracity. The weakest part of the book is a suite of dull indictments of sports in America. Apparently we over-value ballplayers and jocks despite their often not being very good people. The most charitable reading of these places is that Jeffrey's rage is spilling over in kind of unremarkable ways, but I think the section skews the book away from the ambiguity of meanings to be found in the more personal portions of the narrative.