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Funny, Misshapen Body
posted April 8, 2009


Creator: Jeffrey Brown
Publishing Information: Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, softcover, 320 pages, 2009, $16
Ordering Numbers: 9781416549475 (ISBN13), 1416549471 (ISBN10)

I think so highly of Jeffrey Brown's comics that I'm probably over-harsh in my appraisal of individual works. Last year's Little Things slipped out during the late spring to almost no significant fanfare in traditional comics circles. I don't know what I thought of it at the time, but now I'm pretty certain I consider it Brown's best work. There was a confidence in the way that Brown skirted details and slipped between time periods and major life events that I think added to his always considerable moment to moment work. The line work was also as attractive as I can remember Brown's work ever being.

A second Touchstone book Funny Misshapen Body works mostly along the same lines as Little Things, transforming that work's more satisfying and surprising ending tableau into an effect that slips in and out of the entire narrative. Its main selling point will likely be Brown's description of becoming diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, with a secondary emphasis on the cartoonist's artistic development. I think it may work better as the latter, and should actually draw some comparison to Yoshihiro Tatsumi's A Drifting Life. There are several wonderful scenes where Brown, like Tatsumi, fairly loses himself over to work, but rather than build upon those moments Brown is rabbit-quick to undercut them, to move onto something else.

In Little Things, the event that finally brings closure is the formation of Brown's family. Here it's a bunch of books, his first major comics work. It's not surprising that it doesn't tug at the heartstrings in the same way, but you're also left with a greater sense of the start and stop journey. In Brown's personal history there are no false starts, just starts that fail to bring endings. It's not a bad way to look at the world.