When you give your autobio comics project an expansive title, you’re either pretty damn confident that elements of the universal are plainly on offer in the everyday routines of your life, or you’re just delusional. New Orleans-based cartoonist Kyle Bravo has been at it for awhile now, so if he’s delusional, he’s doing a damn good job of hiding it, but based on the evidence offered in his latest self-published mini, Forever & Everything #5, that was probably never a serious concern, anyway. Rather, he does a really nice job of finding something borderline-transcendent in the mundane, and the only thing deliberately grandiose is — yup, that name.
Still, if the shoe fits, right? Naturally, one of the first people you think of when you think of “this sort of thing” in a general sense is Jeffrey Brown, and his influence on the way Bravo structures his strips is fairly well undeniable, but there’s a singular sensibility to this, due not only to the unique circumstances of our guy Kyle’s life, but also to his perspective as someone living with mental illness. The art’s got a bit of a Brown vibe to it, as well, but again, the emphasis is different, imbued with a personality of its own that is a little more precious, perhaps, but in no way cloying or overly-sentimental.
How much of that is down to the exaggerated simplicity of Bravo’s facial drawings and how much can be laid at the feet of the interesting blue shades he employs in his color palette I’m not certain — my “sample size” of his work consists of precisely this comic alone, so I need to check out more and see if he’s done straight B&W work or employed other hues in the past — but I will say this much with without much hesitation : what he’s doing here works, and it’s all a hell of a lot more nuanced than it may appear at first glance. It also plays to the strengths of his subject matter — fatherhood, medication adjustments, the compromises and joys of marriage, work and the commute to and from it, and the prospect of having to move. Earth-shattering? Hardly. Honest? Absolutely.
To be sure, the specter of depression looms large of much of the proceedings here, but it’s not a Sword of Damocles, more a constant and uninvited companion requiring management and, yes, therapy. The wise, and frankly welcome, thing Bravo does is to intersperse the “downers” with the occasional and well-timed happy moment, reminding us as much as himself about the things that not only give life a little bit of balance, but make it worth living. The end result is collection of strips that is subtle and powerful in equal measure, often at the same time. It takes a pretty hard heart not to find that admirable, even when it’s not always successful.
And yeah — not everything in this ‘zine is completely successful. Bravo is clearly more comfortable with self-deprecation than he is with unvarnished self-expression sometimes, and he has a habit of reaching for a “message” in some strips rather than trusting in his readers to find one (or not) on their own. He could stand to have more faith in his instincts — which are pretty damn solid — and quit trying to force things as much as he does, but again : this is the only issue of this series that I’ve read, and I’m more than willing to bet that if I were to go through the previous ones, I’d find some solid progression in this regard.
All of which is to say that I think Bravo’s doing a nice job of balancing art as therapy with just plain solid cartooning. He may not feel it to be true all the time himself, but his future looks pretty bright and I’ll be looking forward to following his work as in the years ahead.
Forever & Everything #5 is available for $5.00 from Kyle Bravo’s buyolympia store at https://buyolympia.com/Item/kyle-bravo-forever-and-everything-5
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