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Martin, Jason – Driftwood City



Driftwood City

I’d like to start this off by praising Jason for getting one little thing right that lots of people seem to forget: he puts the dates for all of his strips on their last page. As this is a collection of his favorite strips from his run on Laterborn (with a few more included from anthologies and five new strips if you’re one of the people who already has all of the original issues of that fine series), it provides some helpful context. He even gave brief synopses of where he was at in his life with each strip, so there’s plenty of new material right there for fans of the series. One question right off the bat: was Laterborn #2 so bad? I think that’s the only one that isn’t represented here, but I don’t have that issue so it’s a mystery to me. Anyway, subjects in here include Jason as a hamburger, the “peace on earth” sign that went up after 9/11 and what happened to it when we went to one of our stupid wars, a perfect moment of the Humpty Hump, his story of a teacher that actually inspired him to action in high school (it’s his favorite piece and probably mine too), his first real crush in 8th grade and his theory for why it fell apart, a Friday night in college, his method for letting people know that he was available in his dorm room, how an old teacher dealt with the grief of the death of his daughter, an awkward plea for a girlfriend from the lead singer of a band he was watching, how Dr. Mario brought his friends together, aquarium soaps, a Taco Bell on the beach, the awkward closing of a local book store, the allure of the Golden Gate Bridge, and a few more strips that I’ll leave as a total surprise, as it still makes no sense for me to ruin such things. Jason has a real knack for finding the meaning in moments, and he’s not at all shy about detailing some of the shitty things he did back in the day, as his thoughtless gay slurs from being a kid would prove. You’re bound to find at least one high school/college tale here you can relate to, and it’s more likely that you’ll find several. Give this a shot and, as I’ve been trying to make absolutely clear, it’s still very much worth it if you’re already caught up on Laterborn. $12


Martin, Jason – Laterborn #7



Laterborn #7

OK fine, so technically Jason hasn’t completely abandoned the idea of the high school story, even though these mostly deal with college and its aftermath.  As long as he still has this much insight into the whole ordeal of friendship and maturing, he can keep it up forever as far as I’m concerned.  First up is a short story which is about friends a young man meets in college (it is fiction, not Jason, as far as I can tell), their time as housemates and how they eventually move onto bigger and better things while the young man just keeps living in the same house, finding new roommates through internet listings.  It’s a fantastic story; he should look into having it published.  I don’t usually say things like that, as I’m one of those dopes who think that being published in your own mini is achievement enough, but there’s a deep core of resentment at the hallowed memory of the time as housemates being made fun of by one of the old members and a full realization that those times are never coming back which make for a damned wistful story.  The comics following this keep up that wistful theme, as further stories deal with quitting a temp job for no apparent reason, being the only person who was decent to the only woman at another temp job, having too many people to pray for and the story I sampled below, which I can relate to all too well.  Finally there’s the piece that made me say he’s still (sort of) doing high school stories, as it’s all about a friend of his from 2nd grade on, how they eventually (but amicably, it seems) drifted apart, and how he later found out that this close friend had gotten married, had a kid and then gotten divorced because his wife was cheating on him with another friend from back in the day.  Clearly these comics are striking a serious chord with me, like I needed more nostalgic tendencies when I’m going home to visit this weekend.  This comic has been a real find (if I’m allowed to consider something that was sent to me in the mail a “find”), and I really can’t recommend it highly enough.  $2


Martin, Jason – Laterborn #6



Laterborn #6

OK, to the chronologically curious, here’s the order in which I reviewed these comics: #5, #4 (after about a year and a half) and finally #6 (after about a month).  If you just read one of these reviews and think it might seem a bit more muddled than usual, you’re probably right.  Anyway, after being mildly impressed by #5 and significantly more impressed by #4, this one blew me away.  Jason describes it in his intro as an attempt to wrap up a lot of topics, as he was heading towards 30 and thought he should probably get away from sad high school and college tales.  This means that he crammed all kinds of stories into this one, so for those of you who are looking for the most bang for your buck, here you go.  Stories in here include the healing power of playing Nintendo with friends after being ignored by the girl you like (and making a new friend in college to begin with), a brief piece about aquarium soaps, an awesome video store clerk in Berkeley, and a dream he had years ago about crashing at the home of a very nervous family, which inspired a follow-up dream years later when he stumbled across a written description of said dream.  The heart of this comic, however, is contained in two longer sections.  First up is Jason’s tale of going on tour with his band in 2007, with all sorts of stories about the generosity of others on the road (including bands giving up their door money to help out the struggling traveling bands) and the various people and places he saw.  Then there’s the subject he’s trying to kill: high school memories.  There’s a piece about his Pavlovian response to the public address system at his school ending each class with the first note from “Today” by Smashing Pumpkins, how he just assumed that Kurt Cobain was an asshole until learning more about him after he died (and how much Cobain hated knowing that he had fans who were assholes), the story of Pearl Jam buying up 4 hours of radio time in 1995 to promote little bands that they liked and promoting new projects from friends, how the way he acquires music has changed dramatically over the years, and a piece about a candle and falling asleep to music that honestly flew right over my head.  Still, my not really getting one story (and it’s not like I hated it or anything) in a comic this hefty was impressive.  It’s going to be a shame to have Jason put some of these topics behind him (even though I’m intensely curious to see what he comes up with next), as few people have been able to convey the quiet moments that really make up friendships at that age.  The realization that you’ve started talking like your friends, the tiny things you do to amuse yourselves and how much they can help you out when you’re down.  OK, that veered towards sappiness, but you get the idea.  As you get older your friends have, you know, adult responsibilities and can’t always be there when you need them.  In high school and college, generally speaking, they were occasionally as miserable as you were and got exactly where you were coming from.  It looks like he’s putting together a collection of the best of his stuff, which should be something to see.  In the meantime, I’d start with this one, his best yet, and work your way backwards.  $3


Martin, Jason – Laterborn #5


Laterborn #5

Mini comics 101, that’s what you’ll find here. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing in my book, or at least it’s not when you have something interesting to say. Jason packs this little thing with autobiographical stories about growing up, falling into and out of friendship with a girl, peepholes, suicide, bike soccer, and a crappy data entry job. Nothing in here will set the world on fire, but it’s a solid mini, the kind of thing you’d read and then forget what was in it a couple of days later. I don’t mean to crap all over this or anything, the art is solid enough and there are a few genuinely touching moments in here, but if you’re one of those people (that I just made up in my head) who only buy comics from up and coming superstars who are setting the world on fire, thus far you can probably skip this series. But who knows if he keeps at it… $2

Martin, Jason – Laterborn #4



Laterborn #4

I have nothing but sympathy for anybody who reads this site and hopes to find numerical coherence in the reviews.  Sometimes I do get #1 of a series and then work my way down the line, but more often than not I get an issue somewhere in the middle, review it, and am then sent other issues of a series (or seek them out myself) for a more balanced perspective.  Jason thought I was a little hard on him last time around (for the review of #5) and, generally speaking, he’s right.  Hey, you try to come up with something at least mildly interesting about this stuff every day.  It’s usually easy, sometimes it’s not.  One thing I do have to point out to people though: when I say that something is “mini comics 101”, well, that’s a good thing in my book.  I like comics, you see, or I wouldn’t be at the end of the eighth year of this reviewing gig.  Anyway, this extended intro was mostly so I could mention that #5 was sort of a response to #4, as friends told him that #4 was a bit heavy and he wanted to focus on lighter fare.  The fourth issue was a bit heavy, granted, but it was also a really excellent comic.  There are basically three long stories in this issue to go along with one short piece about how a longstanding “Peace on Earth” sign was taken down after the start of the Iraq war with an American flag.  The first, a long text piece (I believe these are known as “short stories” to those of you who have only ever read comics), deals with a young woman on holiday with her boyfriend, visiting his family, and her remembering a traumatic childhood of story of his and coming to a much greater understanding of his “faults”.  Next up is one of the rawest things I’ve ever seen in comics, the story of a music teacher  and his reaction to the death of his young daughter.  This piece should be copied extensively and handed out to anybody who says that squiggly lines on paper don’t have the power to move people.  Finally there’s the story of a genuine inspiration in the life of a young Jason Martin, his teacher of “Personal Growth” (yes, apparently the name of the class).  This teacher broke all kinds of boundaries, challenged his class to think in entirely new ways, and inspired young Jason in probably his first act of civil disobedience.  Jason even throws in the newspaper clipping of the event, in case we thought he was taking liberties or anything.  It’s a great mini, not a weak link to be found.  Maybe I was a little hard on #5 (it’s been a year and a half and it’s not like I have an encyclopedic memory of these things), but #4 is a wonderful thing, well worth seeking out.  $2