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posted January 14, 2010
Gestalt Publishing, softcover, 24 pages/64 pages, 2009, $2/$7.95 (current sale price)
9780977562879 (first issue), 9780977562862 (second issue)
I quite enjoyed these two modest first issues of a digest-sized (get it?), one-man anthology comic book from a cartoonist called Bobby.N. It looks like the work of a guy (or gal) who's spent years on his craft and is only just now beginning to be comfortable getting what he does onto paper and before an audience (the copious amounts of prose back information will likely tell me for sure if this is the case). There are moments of real visual skill on display here. Look at the second cover above and the delicate interplay of sight lines between foreground and background. The lettering in the background draws the eye into the swirl of tableaux behind the main figure. That figure both allows this to happen at the second level and provides a firm pair of lines that anchors us in the forward part of the drawing. That's not the first time this artist has considered various subtle effect and intricacies of design, or if it is, it's awfully precocious.
Bobby.N's book consists of one main serial, several self-contained background stories and some prose noodling, mostly in the form of a transcribed, casual Internet conversation between the cartoonist and a friend. The prose I skipped for now; what I read felt logorrheic. The comics were much more tightly controlled. Bobby.N draws like several recognizable alternative cartoonists: his house would not out look out of place on a street where Richard Tommaso, Mike Dawson, Dave Sim, Joe Sacco and especially Dave Cooper had their homes. Like some of the best second generation alt-comics work in the U.S., the serial "Oxygen" processes its science fiction through an autobiographical comics template: spying on the neighbors, remembering strange moments from the past, dreamscapes. A lot will depend on the reveal, if the story holds our interest when more of its cards are on the table. But for now, it's a sturdy enough thing.
The short stories are both more satisfying and less skillful. My favorite is one called "Train Ride," which is basically an overheard conversation of staggering self-centeredness performed with an energy and blissful cluelessness that provides the speaker sympathy, if not dignity. In many of the others, Bobby.N seems to struggle with a kind of self-satisfied, summary statement that risks making the story trite rather than impactful. An otherwise well-observed story about a father asking a child to dive into the deep end becomes a TV sitcom coda when brought into the present. I think there's plenty of time for Bobby.N to find his legs here, to push a little deeper, end things a little more strangely. A story with a sexual twist is graced not so much by its ending but by the observational humor along the way. Long story or short, I'd like to see more.