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At Home On The Earth
posted October 25, 2006
Tender Loving Empire, Mini-Comicish Looking Pamphlet, 36 pages, 2006, $5
The thing I like best about Brian Oaster's At Home On The Earth
is that the cartoonist definitely thinks in terms of complete, achievable projects, which should subtle but important benefits as his career progresses. This fable-like short story has a nice sense of self-containment; one can't imagine this being made any better by a sequel, or by taking the project on-line, or by re-mixing it with additional story material. To borrow the sports phrase of the moment, "It is what it is." And what that is in this case is a Harry Chapin-like, soft science fiction about a boy who tries to find a place, a home, and the importance that finding it has for him.
The fundamental problem with Oaster's book is a common one: it's not original or quirky enough to engage simply for the story. This puts a ton of pressure on the way the art and story are realized in order that the book hit people as something special. We know all the heartwarming lessons of this story going in, and unless we're going to art to be reaffirmed in our values, we're going to need to see something we've never seen before, or experience a level of craft or storytelling excellence that have value of its own. As of this book, Oaster's art isn't up to the challenge: it communicates, but doesn't thrill. In fact, some of the designs selected are jarring enough to take the reader right out of the story, both in specific moments, like someone sleeping with a glass bubble spacesuit head fastened on (ouch), and in general, the way the old-school victorian depictions of space travel, government and war clash with the slight elements of modern sensibility introduced. This is a very sweet
book, so I can imagine people liking that aspect of it, but it's not enough of an accomplished
one to garner a recommendation.