Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Quick Picks #9: Crumbs, Dreams, and Birds

Quick Picks is an occasionally written series of microreviews of books I’ve read over the past two weeks. Here’s a selection of books I’ve been thinking about over the last two weeks.

Reign of Crumbs by Glynnis Fawkes

Glynnis Fawkes’ latest comic Reign of Crumbs from Kilgore Books is a collection of brush pen drawings of Fawkes’ family life. Full of rough, loose drawings of Fawkes’ family, and prominently featuring her two children Sylvan and Helen, the book is a reflection on modern life through the eyes of an often-exasperated Fawkes as she tries to get her kids to do their homework, eat their dinner, and play nice. The control of her other work, like Alles Ego, is replaced with a simplicity and an immediacy that makes these comics feel lived in. It’s hard to say which of Fawkes’ styles I prefer more. Reign of Crumbs is very strongly reminiscent of the work of Keiler Roberts, although Roberts’ work is more guarded, and more wryly funny than anything in Reign of Crumbs. But the anxieties and fears of any parent are a part of the DNA of Reign of Crumbs, and Fawkes finds a way to poke fun at herself and highlight the absurdity that is modern parenting.

Black Cloud Vol. 1: No Exit by Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, and Matt Wilson

Imagine a world above our world, where powerful mages created a world of dreams, and where its inhabitants can move from their world and ours. That’s the concept of Black Cloud, featuring a protagonist named Zelda who is living homeless on the streets of a pseudo-Trumpian New York. After taking a rich college kid into the dream realm to make some cash, she bites off more than she can chew. This collection of comics the first five issues of Black Cloud was lovely to look at, but more concept than actual good common sense. The nonsequential storytelling made the book overly confusing, and hid the fact that the plot itself wasn’t all that interesting. The only true character, Zelda, is tortured and self-loathing, and that permeates the entire work, making the book a slog to get through. Is this comics as SIFI TV show pitch? Because that’s what it feels like.

I, Parrot by Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle

A collaboration between a more established author (Unferth) and a less established cartoonist (Haidle), I, Parrot tells the story of Daphne, a young woman who takes a pet-sitting job from her self-help guru boss. The pet? 42 parrots, some endangered and extinct, all inherited from a long dead uncle. Haidle’s illustration is black and white inkwash throughout, in a style that feels very New York Times, and quite reminiscent of Isabelle Arsenault. The look of I Parrot is its major strength; Haidle makes the characters feel alive. The theme of caretaking (both of romantic relationships, Daphne’s son, and the birds) is a major rumination of I, Parrot, which explores the steps after the bad decision and the wrong turn. The book deals largely with romance, familial love, and self-realization inside of that caretaking framework, but the writing fails to enchant. The book gets more surreal as it goes, but fails to stick its landing; the final revelation and ending feel shoehorned in. Haidle’s beautiful illustrations buoy a floundering script, but can’t manage to save it.

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