On deck for this week’s Round-Up column we’ve got a quartet of self-published minis from astonishingly literate cartoonist Cole Johnson, who has staked out his own unique metaphorical patch of turf quickly and is plowing it for all it’s worth. As is the case with John Porcellino, the deceptively minimalist style Johnson utilizes conveys a tremendous amount of information and, more importantly, feeling with as little fuss and muss as possible, consequently allowing his lean illustrations to pack more emotional “wallop” per line than he should, by all rights, be able to convey. Each of these books (three of which are in full color, and it’s gotta be said that Johnson is also a superb colorist) collects a series of thematically-similar short strips which seep into the consciousness of the reader with a heady mix of subtlety and inevitability, and reading all four at once, as I did, definitely has the power to “set the tone” for the rest of your day — or at least the next several hours of it, depending on what you’ve got going on.
Keeping all that in mind, then, I’m going to dispense with the plot recaps for each strip entirely and try something entirely different — what follows is not so much a traditional “capsule review” for these comics, but a cataloguing of the feelings that they stirred up in me as I read them. You’ll no doubt notice a very distinct pattern emerge, and will walk away with a solid grasp of whether or not these comics are your “sort of thing.” I’ll state right now, and for the record, that they’re absolutely and unequivocally my “sort of thing,” and that I can’t wait to see what Johnson does next.
Forgotten Melody At The Edge Of Memory – Loneliness. Contemplation. Melancholy. Yearning. Alienation. Dissociation. Nostalgia. Despair. Restlessness. Ennui. Nihilsim. Resignation.
Never In A Million Years – Isolation. Failure. Longing. Yearning. Alienation. Dislocation. Apathy. Contemplation. Fear. Reverie. Resignation. Wistfulness.
Of Course – Lamentation. Heartbreak. Resignation. Tragedy. Wistfulness. Alienation. Vexation. Morbidity. Uselessness. Pity. Stoicism. Turmoil.
Ellipsis #1 – Anxiety. Contemplation. Dreariness. Inevitability. Depression. Weariness. Alienation. Wistfulness. Apathy. Isolation. Yearning. Apprehensiveness.
As you can see, Johnson is a cartoonist who knows what his particular skill-set and outlook is particularly good at conveying, and his work can very fairly be said to all be “of a piece.” And yet each story finds a method or two by which to express similar sentiments in new and, dare I say it, even clever ways. At some point it might be interesting to see our guy Cole move outside his “comfort zone” and try something entirely unexpected, sure, but for now — I’ll be damned if there’s anyone else out there doing what he does anywhere near as well as he does it. This is deeply felt, deeply humane, deeply personal work that is sure to make even the most hardened of hearts bleed a few drops — albeit in a muted, understated way that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself or its turmoil. If you’re feeling down none of these comics are going to pick you up, that’s for sure — and with Ellipsis slated to be a quarterly ongoing series it’s a safe bet that Johnson’s got a lot more to say on the particular set of concerns he seems downright consumed by — but they will let you know, in no uncertain terms, that there’s somebody else out there who knows pretty much exactly what you’re going through and has channeled those feelings through his conscious and subconscious mind in order to create some truly poignant art.
So, ya know, maybe all is not lost after all. Next week we’ll venture into far more uplifting territory, I promise, but until then, the following links may come in handy —
Forgotten Melody At The Edge Of Memory, Never In A Million Years, and Of Course all carry a $6.00 price tag and are available directly from the cartoonist via his bigcartel online store at https://colejohnson.bigcartel.com/products
John Porcellino (hey, there’s that name again!) also has all three of these titles available at his Spit And A Half distro site, and he also seems to be the only person offering Ellipsis #1 for sale at this point in time, so if you want to give that a go (and I really think you do), you can order that up for five bucks here :http://www.spitandahalf.com/product/ellipsis-1-by-cole-johnson/