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posted December 28, 2005

Creators: Steven Gilbert
Publishing Information: King Ink, $3, 48 pages
Ordering Numbers:

I'm slightly aware of Gilbert's work on the series I Had A Dream and from seeing his work in various (very) small-press anthologies, although I'm not even certain of that. Mostly, I'm aware of Gilbert because of the occasional confusing of his name with Texas-based cartoonist and sometimes-Journal contributor Scott Gilbert.

I'll not forget him again. This book -- and, to a lesser extent the previous book Gardenback -- are good enough that he's on my permanent rotation of unknown artists to watch. He's not there quite yet, but the amount of improvement between the two is particularly promising. If Gilbert breaks free of his obvious influences and continues to do long, affecting narratives of the kind found in Colville, it won't be too long before everyone knows who he is.

Colville is (or claims to be) a reality-based crime story set in Gilbert's hometown of Newmarket, Ontario. The small, realism-infested touches are what distinguish the comic from splashier, film-influenced comics in the same vein such as Stray Bullets, or Brian Bendis' work: a scene where two characters have a matter-of-fact conversation during sex, the fact that the crime involves a dirtbike rather than drugs or cash, and the horribly seedy sexual encounter the main character has with someone who claims to have read his mini-comic.

The dialogue is fair to good, and the art is much improved over that in Gardenback: you can still see Burns and Clowes there, in the same way that it was apparent in Rich Tommaso's Rollercoaster work. And some panels are reminiscent of James Sturm and Adrian Tomine -- maybe even Dylan Horrocks. But the heavy crosshatching which is Gilbert's own for the most part works, and he depicts enough of the small town which is at the center of the story to effectively place the reader.

An effective crime story isn't necessarily a towering achivement, but this one's worthy of your notice.

This review was written in the late 1990s as part of a then-ongoing freelance gig; I apologize if it reads oddly or seems incomplete.