Review: What Happened by Simon Moreton

I’m woefully behind on my reading – in fact, I’ve been planning to read Simon Moreton’s Plans We Made (released by Uncivilized Press in 2015) for about a year now, and I haven’t gotten around to it (the blame rests solely on my own shoulders). But when the books from the Kilgore Books Kickstarter came in the mail, I sat down with each of them that same day. The entire set of books from Kilgore was great, and Moreton’s What Happened is no exception.

The comic is an exercise is nostalgia; Moreton’s blurb about the book places the story as one of “being 12 in 1995.” What Happened is, in the strictest terms, a recounting of things that happened in the Spring and Summer of that year. But it’s also not that; it’s a story of trying to find yourself and trying to lose yourself. It’s about boyhood crushes and the romance of an idea of a time that was simpler. Perhaps Moreton’s cartooning is specifically appropriate for this type of story. There is plenty of black and white, and not too much grey.

Moreton uses a paired down 2×2 grid, and the comics within are minimalist as well. Moreton’s base line is thin and wispy, but he uses screentone for fill and thick graphite-looking smudges for emphasis. There is a spareness to the work.

There is an economy of line that reminds me of poetry; each movement of the pencil carefully considered and pared down to its essence. But what’s remarkable about the drawings of What Happened is how they imply motion. The grass and trees rustle in the wind, the water of a tidepool sloshes and ripples, all of it movement by subtraction. The book ends on a spectacular note – kids getting the keys to dad’s car so they can listen to a new tape in the tapedeck (Moreton’s a little vague, but if I had to guess, I’d say Black Sabbath’s Paranoid). The music overwhelms and envelops them until nothing is left.

I’ve heard it said that nostalgia is the act of turning the the past into a lie, but what a lie. What a beautiful lie. Moreton’s work here is remarkable, and well worth your time.

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