Review: An Entity Observes All Things by Box Brown

An Entity Observes All Things is 152 pages of perfect bound science fiction short stories, some of which have been published previously as mini comics (including New Physics, a review of which you can find here). The collection uses a limited color palette; each story uses 3-4 tones, mostly block primary colors, with some lavender and fuchsia mixed in for good measure.

Despite the collection’s futuristic leanings, Brown’s An Entity Observes All Things is a collection of comics that exists in the now. Science fiction as a genre has the tendency to critique the time in which it is written. Brown follows in that vein. The problems the characters face are classic 21st century – public anxiety, use of social media, boredom at work, even podcasting play a large part in the storytelling.  Brown is also interested accessing  some of the complexities of the human condition – we see him use time travel in one story as a way to explore both regret and personal guilt while in another time travel represents personal separation in loving partnerships.

While many of the stories are fun or funny (sometimes darkly so) the strongest stories in An Entity Observes All Things are the ones in which Brown allows his characters to breathe. “Travel,” a comic about anxiety, proves to be one of the most resonant in the book. We spend a lot of time with the main character, and despite the fantastic shit that is happening all around him, the depth of his inability to interface with the outside world is striking.

Compared to Brown’s previous comics, An Entity Observes All Things seems much tighter. Brown continues to refine his style with dense geometric line and blocky design. I noticed in this collection the use of screen tone as a fill shade, something I don’t remember seeing in previous work; the technique feels like a natural extension of Brown’s current style.

An Entity Observes All Things is a great introduction of Box Brown’s comics, and pushes previously out of print work to a more durable format. An Entity Observes All Things gives new readers a chance to sample Brown’s sense of humor and cartooning before jumping into other his longer work.  And as a collection of short science fiction stories, Brown has found the right mixture of present and future to create engaging science fiction.

Box Brown is a cartoonist and co-publisher of Retrofit Comics. His recent graphic novel, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, a biography of the legendary wrestler, was published by First Second Books.

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