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posted November 3, 2009
One Percent Press, mini-comic, 24 pages, November 2007, $3
I've seen a lot of mini-comics like Adrift
. Released a couple of years back by CCS graduate and comics diarist JP Coovert, it's a handsomely packaged short story featuring one drawing per page printed in a pleasing, single color. The plot should be familiar to anyone that's ever read a man vs. nature piece of pop culture. We meet our protagonist lost at sea. He has a pair of encounters with nature that are terrifying. A third encounter suggests a sunnier outcome, helpful and satisfying in some undefinable way. The protagonist then finds himself removed from his situation but after his initial gratitude and relief dives back to where he came from (literally, I guess) in order to reconnect with the agent of the more positive of the three experiences. The story ends in rapturous freeze-frame.
Judging the effectiveness of that story is where things get tricky. On the one hand, the drawings are cute and the story has that enjoyable pull one derives from the better children's literature, the sense that you don't really question what's going and can easily give yourself over to the broader emotions involved. It's not a bad comic. Adrift
suggests Coovert is a skilled, focused cartoonist. On the other hand, there's almost nothing to Adrift
's story in terms of theme or plot complication or meaning, even at a reasonably lengthy 28 pages. What little rests behind the curtain wouldn't fool a three-year-old as to its originality. In the end, I think stories like the one in Adrift
work when you approach them with vastly reduced or specialized expectations: when this is one of 30 books you might buy at a convention in support of a scene, or if you just want a sense of the artist's work, or if you have an inexhaustible appetite for comics of its gentle, emotionally twee nature. For the rest of us, it's quickly forgotten, except perhaps as it causes us to muse on just how powerful the pictures employed by masters such as Steig, Seuss or Freeman can be, the quality of line and depth of visual imagination that makes their stories rise above.