A simple story, well told, is always worth its weight in gold — a sentiment that’s perhaps never been more true than in these troubled and troubling times — and when he’s really hit on a nugget of an idea, when he’s firing on all cylinders creatively, a simple story, well told, is precisely the kind of thing that Columbus, Ohio’s Brian Canini excels at. Guess what? In his latest self-published (under the auspices of his Drunken Cat Comics imprint) mini, Across The Diner, he’s hit on a nugget of an idea and is firing on all cylinders creatively.
Still here? ‘Cuz, I mean, I just pretty well gave away the game, which — at least according to what passes for conventional “wisdom” — is supposed to be seriously poor form. Even if what you’re saying is true — which, in this case, it absolutely is — you’re expected to wait a bit, build up to it, all that good stuff. Still, since you’ve stuck around, I suppose I will, as well —
Meet Emily, a young-ish, likely professional, woman who’s out for a first date she, one assumes, set up on some app or other. The date doesn’t show. But someone else does — someone who appears to tick every box on her personal “girl of my dreams” list. Things could get interesting — or not — depending on what she does next. A leap of faith is in order, obviously — but you know how these things go : they’re pretty damn daunting. Unless you decide that they’re actually, ya know, not.
Have we been down this road a thousand times before? Of course we have. And are things like text messages as a storytelling crutch done to death in today’s comics? Of course they are. But can a cartoonist in his or her “zone” make even the most tried-and-possibly-tired conceits and concepts work to their advantage if they relax, don’t push too hard, and just follow their best artistic impulses and creative choices? Of course they can.
It occurs to me now that I’ve probably gushed out almost as many superlatives as this modest little comics contains words, but sometimes that’s the way it goes. Things hit you in the right way, ignite that little spark, and you just roll with it. So I’m rolling with it.
That’s precisely what Canini does here — nothing more, certainly nothing less. He rolls with it. His setting — our titular diner, in case you were wondering (I know, I know — you weren’t) — is perfect for his spared-down “classical cartooning” style, his characters belie the sort of intuitively-rendered facial expressions that only come when an artist really puts themselves in their heads, and he eschews trite nonsense like caption boxes for his protagonist’s internal monologue in favor of (yes! Rejoice!) actual thought bubbles. Yes, this is “only” and eight-page B&W number, but nevertheless — there’s a lot here to love.
Self-doubt, insecurity, second-guessing, trepidation, fear — again, these have all been done to death. But there’s a reason for that, isn’t there? I mean, to one degree or another, in one proportion or another, we can all relate to them. Or, rather, we can if conveyed correctly. Honestly. Authentically. Minus any fuss, muss, overkill, or understatement. It’s a tricky balance for such a simple thing, one that any given cartoonist has to get just right both visually and narratively. Brian Canini threads the needle here and crafts exactly what he set out to with this one.
Which was what again? Oh yeah — a simple story, well told. Very well told, in this case.
Across The Diner is available for $1.99 from the Drunken Cat Comics website at http://drunkencatcomics.storenvy.com/products/29957878-across-the-diner
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