As a trilogy that concerns itself with a “from the inside” look at the clinical depression and mental and physical breakdown of its protagonist, Jason Bradshaw’s Paper Rocket Mini Comics-published Things Go Wrong has been about the farthest thing from an “easy read” one can imagine — but it’s certainly been admirably honest, impeccably drawn, and absorbing in the extreme. Hope has been in short supply, but artistic integrity? That’s present and accounted for throughout, and if honest explorations of tough topics are your sort of thing, then the plain truth is that they simply don’t come much better than this. Now that the final issue, #3, is upon us, then, the questions that hang over it are — what sort of ending does Bradshaw have in store, and what sort do we want?
I mean, certainly our ostensible “hero,” James, deserves a break — but how “legit” would it feel for him to get one? Now that he’s shaken off his creative doldrums by “opting out” of taking his medication, he seems to have decided that living for a short time, but expressing a lot in that time is more important to him than living a long and uninspired life drugged to the gills and sick all the time, and really — I’m not prepared to argue with that logic, even if it borders on a “zero-sum” situation. Now, though, he’s determined to follow this course of action and inaction to what he sees as its inevitable outcome — the complete negation of his self, a dark “Saturn Return” to a state of non-being. A literal blank canvas.
The “feel-good comic of 2020” has arrived ! — somewhere else. This is as rough a slog as ever and no, by stating that plainly I’m not giving away a damn thing. You might think the title to this review actually does just that, but I’m never one to pass up an opportunity to be pleased with my own (self-declared) cleverness, so let me just state for the record : when I say that “a lot goes right” I could could just as easily be referring to Bradshaw’s technical execution and how well he achieves his artistic objectives as I may (or may not) be hinting at anything to do with the comic’s narrative events. What I will say is — oh, hell, I’d better be really careful here. Check out a sample page while I take a moment to think :
Okay, here’s what I know for sure — the ending of this comic feels true and honest. Bradshaw has followed his “through-line” as an artist to where it was going, and furthermore has done so with tremendous bravery and near-flawless technique. The sparse scripting has been razor-sharp and intensely communicative, the art has followed suit in both regards, and the seamlessness of this project has been breathtaking from start to, yes, finish. Whether or not Bradshaw and publisher Robyn Chapman intend to collect this in a single volume I have no idea, but if they do, it should be both a taxing and rewarding experience in equal measure.
Still, I’m kinda glad I read this in “singles,” with each appearing about a year apart. Doing it all at once might be a bit much. Not that actually living this wouldn’t be far worse — as Bradshaw makes clear in his from-the-heart afterword, he created this series for very specific reasons and hoped to express very specific things with it, and I can state without a shadow of a doubt that he has succeeded in doing precisely that. Few comics have relayed the process of physical and mental deterioration as thoroughly as this one — Gabby Schulz’ Sick comes immediately to mind, but that’s about it — and so with that in mind, it’s fair to say that Bradshaw has placed himself in damn select company here.
And so a remarkable series has reached a remarkable end — and one that echoes with absolute authenticity. If you’ve been following it thus far, you already know you don’t want to miss this issue, and if you haven’t, now is the perfect time to pick all three up. As should be crystal clear by now, it won’t be an pleasant reading experience — but I can promise you it’s a profound, perhaps even a necessary, one.
Things Go Wrong #3 is available for $4.00 from Paper Rocket Mini Comics at http://thetinyreport.storenvy.com/products/29290291-things-go-wrong-3
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