Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

Holiday Funeral
posted April 13, 2007

imageCreator: Nick Mullins
Publishing Information: Nijomu Studio, mini-comic, 52 pages, December 2006, $3
Ordering Numbers:

There's a lot that's positive about Nick Mullin's Holiday Funeral, a print presentation of two on-line comics stories in handcrafted mini-comics that feature attractive toning work (the panel used to illustrated this review is from the on-line effort) as an add-in. Mullins is working with a very humane subject matter, the loneliness and abandonment that older people feel, and how that relates to a more general disconnection from family and history that of us generally suffer from in our personal lives. The set-up for each story feel based on observed reality -- multiple hints in the mini suggest its drawn from the situation in which his own grandmother found herself -- and there are multiple, affecting plot points. One of the best is in the second story where both the story's protagonist and one of the supporting characters reminds us that the deceased taught practically the whole town how to read, a profound contribution, and yet her funeral is lightly attended -- a chilling and realistic summary of the hubris in our own self-appraisals.

The one thing that hampers each of these stories is that each overplay its hand and becomes too self-aware; they slip into a convenient, literary mode that seems divorced from the messy tumble and sideways revelations of reality. This happens in the first story near the conclusion when the twist is revealed in almost blunt, "gotcha" fashion, and takes place in the second with the way Mullins treats the "too busy/professional/asexual to land a man" identity that clings to the stand-in (it's not the stigma so much as there doesn't seem to be any interesting take on the stigma from the character herself). Each feels like a story moment, a device, and not a part of the reality that rest of the story communicates. The second story also makes its main thematic points with an extremely heavy hand, although the somber tone and the compelling subject matter leaven the manipulation one might feel in being marched through certain points of view. The comic overall feels like a pair of anthology-bound short stories from a new prose author who's one major work away from nailing it.