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

December 6, 2007

CR Review: Little Things


Creator: Jeffrey Brown
Publishing Information: Touchstone, soft cover, 352 pages, April 2008, $14
Ordering Numbers: 1416549463 (ISBN) 9781416549468 (ISBN13)

Jeffrey Brown hasn't made any comics as good as what he achieves in the final chapter or so of Little Things. At that point in the book our understanding of Brown feels sort of like a series of table place-mats dropped on one top of the other in rough fashion. We've seen enough in the way he operates -- low-key, solicitous but fairly self-absorbed, seemingly as fond of perfectly crafted, conducted personal experience of a minor nature as he is of any potential life epiphanies and hopelessly not in sync with his potential love interests -- to get a sense of how he works. Brown's leap forward makes us re-think everything we've read to date as it replaces the single-guy memoir by placing us into a period when he's settled down and with a child. At that point you realize you didn't know him as well as you thought you had before that moment, and then, maybe, that by seeing him as a much more complete and content person after he's moved into a certain direction you may suddenly know him so much better than you had intended.

That final effect is more than worth the cover price, although there's more to the volume. Brown offers up for inspection the usual amusing but quotidian life moments that are as entertaining as ever. Little Things contains a wonderful sequence when Brown is faced by a confusing street incident that should feel familiar to anyone who's ever lived as a young, mostly lightly resourced person in a major city. I wonder at some of the pacing of the earlier segment, the way that a couple about music don't fit in as well with the recurring effect I found so strongly played later on. Still, this the best work of his I've read to date, less dependent on fearless revelation than on the quality of the cartoonist's observations.

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