Now on its third issue — the first released under the auspices of its new publisher, Radiator Comics — Whit Taylor’s Fizzle is really finding its footing as one of the outstanding naturalist comic book narratives of our time. Stories focused on physically and emotionally unmoored “20-somethings” are hardly anything new, of course, but ones that use homemade popsicles (or, if you prefer, “paletas”) as a framing device are — and ones that transcend their own (admittedly clever) storytelling crutches and gimmicks as the series goes along are a true rarity indeed.
All of which is my convoluted way of saying that Taylor’s skills as a cartoonist are developing right before our eyes as we go along here, and it’s a pretty remarkable thing to behold. We’ve all had friends who are with significant others that leave us scratching our heads and wondering “what the hell is she doing with that guy?” (ever notice it’s seldom the other way around?), but to explore that topic in a way that doesn’t absolve the — ahem! — less worthy partner of their shortcomings while resisting the easy trap of portraying the person doing most of the heavy lifting as some kind of “martyr for love” requires an extremely deft and skillful touch. Taylor’s now reached the point where she can do precisely that after two issues that set the stage and made solid, if tentative, steps in the right direction, and the results? Well, they’re flat-out remarkable.
First through a flashback to how they first met, then though a fraught-with-silent-tension family dinner set in the present, Taylor shows us both what her protagonist, underemployed New Jersey-to-California transplant Claire, both saw in her “stoner” boyfriend, Andy, then — and why she stays with him now despite harboring no delusions about his emotional, and probably even intellectual, maturity level. It’s not pity, it’s not sympathy, it’s not a simple reclamation project — and it’s looking more and more like it may not last, either. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t share a bond, and that they don’t each fulfill any number of actual needs in the other.
Concurrent with Taylor’s increasing confidence as a writer is her increasing confidence as an illustrator — the two usually do go hand in hand, after all — and in this issue her clean-line style takes on an added dimension of boldness and sensitivity reflected in both facial expression and body language. The better she gets to know these characters, the better she draws both them and the circumstances that shape and inform their lives, and as this series promises to run at least two more issues (hey, Whit, if you’re reading this, we wouldn’t mind if it went on a little longer than that), the future looks very promising indeed.
There are some intriguing subplots that bubble closer to the surface in this installment as well, with Claire making a surprising connection with Andy’s dementia-afflicted grandfather and things at the tea shop where she works becoming even more subtly intolerable in the way that only jobs can be, so all in all we’ve got the proverbial “whole package” here. Whatever it is you like about “slice-of-life” small press independent comics, chances are it’s present and accounted for in these yellow pages.
So consider this your official cue : if you’re not on board with this series yet, now’s the time. Waiting for the inevitable collected edition is fine and all, but in this instance you’d only be robbing yourself of the unique experience of seeing an artist’s growth in, as the saying goes, “real time.” I humbly implore you not to go that route. This is a comic that both deserves, and will generously reward, your support in the here and now.
Fizzle #3 is available for $8.00 from Radiator Comics at https://www.radiatorcomics.com/shop/minicomics/fizzle-no-3/
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