16 April 2006

Hey, Jeffrey Brown: Please Stop Cartooning

I read Jeffrey Brown's graphic novel "Any Easy Intimacy."

Oh, how I hated this book.

For starters, it's an autobiographical work. I was -- and maybe still am -- a fan of independent autobiographical comics... provided they're interesting and not full of the solipsistic navel-gazing that has, unfortunately, come to define the genre. "Any Easy Intimacy" is nothing but navel-gazing.

The book consists of a series of vignettes delineating the gradual implosion of a romantic relationship. Love is a universal theme to which everybody can relate, but Brown's depiction of his own little melodrama is excruciating in its tedium. The book is an extremely quick read and yet it seems to take forever as you wade through the ups and downs and ups and downs between the two protagonists, "Jeffrey" and "Sophia." It's obvious that Brown finds each and every detail, each monochromatic facet of his pathetic existence, endlessly fascinating, but he is unable to convey that through his inept cartooning, which owes a gigantic debt to Chester Brown. But while Chester's style is simple and clean, Jeffrey's art is merely loose and sloppy. One would think that since Jeff places such obvious weight and significance on the events of "Any Easy Intimacy," he would have put a little more craft and effort into it, but that's not the case.

As mentioned above, the plot of the book follows the love affair between Jeffrey and Sophia, from their nauseatingly cutesy-poo introduction through their thoroughly boring relationship through its drawn out conclusion. There are several sexual interludes, which in Brown's expert hands are rendered with all the passion and eroticism of a trip to the post office.

(Incidentally, this book is the third book in Brown's Girlfriend Trilogy, the first of which is called "Unlikely: How I Lost My Virginity." I mean, SERIOUSLY, what possesses a douchebag like Brown to think that anyone besides himself wants to read about his first piece of ass?)

Brown helpfully includes a soundtrack at the end of the book, because if there's one thing that everybody loves, it's a mix tape made by an art fag who thinks every maudlin song he listens to was written about himself. Predictably, much of the music he recommends is of the self-pitying variety: Death Cab for Cutie, Elliott Smith, Pedro the Lion, Kissing Book. Golly, who would've thunk that a self-obsessed choad like Brown would have such atrocious taste in music? (Some good stuff is included as well, e.g., Low and Radiohead, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.)

At the end of the day, "Any Easy Intimacy" is just so precious and sentimental and saccharine and cloying that you can't help but imagine, just for a little bit, how awesome it would be to, say, hit Brown in the face with a shovel or something. At one point in the book, Sophia tells Jeff, "My dad thinks you're gay." He's not the only one.

Oh yeah, I'm tremendously disappointed that Top Shelf published this worthless piece of shit -- they usually display much better taste in material.

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