Old Man Winter and Other Sordid Tales by J.T. Yost

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It doesn’t hurt a comic one bit when I open up to the first page and think “Joe Sacco”.  Kids, ask your parents.  He did (does?) comics about distant parts of the world, often with a political tinge, and is one of that rare breed of “respected” comic artists.  Well, respected to people who don’t automatically disqualify comic artists, that is.  Anyway, the comparison quickly fades as it becomes clear that J. T. has his own unique style.  The first story in this comic, Old Man Winter, takes its time setting things up, and shows us an expansive world of full page panels.  With a lesser artist this would be called “filler”, but as every page is packed with background and the environment surrounding this man, you seamlessly get pulled into his world.  The old man’s wife has died recently, he’s more or less living out the remaining years by wandering around local shops and talking with his daughter.  J.T. does an excellent job of just showing the silence that follows the man wherever he goes with his huge panels, but still takes the time to focus in on the people he leaves behind and their reactions to his ways.  Frankly, not enough people do stories about the elderly and, as most of us are going to get there eventually (if we’re lucky?), it’s illuminating to see the world through their eyes.  Next up is All Is Forgiven, a silent piece about a scientist doing horrific tests to lab animals and his depression after his breakup.  Good luck coming away from that one without feeling bad that you’re part of the human race.  He follows this with a lighter piece about the dead time he spent as a child living in a small town and how he passed the time: by “logging”, with another friend, yet another childhood friend and his family.  Logging meant essentially that they would put a log somewhere on the car or near the house during the night to terrorize his friend’s family.  Trust me, I grew up in a small town and this makes perfect sense.  The pranks escalate until the cops are called in, and that’s usually the point where the pranks stop.  If you weren’t depressed enough from the previous story about animal testing wait until you read Road Trip.  It details two trips, side by side: a young child going to an amusement park and a young cow getting systematically taken apart at a slaughter house.  Oh, and the journey to the slaughter house, which is horrific enough in its own right.  J.T. doesn’t spare us the details and, as is always the case after reading stories like this, it makes me question my carnivorous ways.  Finally there’s a shorter piece detailing a young man joining the circus and their treatment of elephants, but the tininess of the panels blunts the impact a bit after seeing those other two pieces in exacting detail.  A couple of these pieces were in Young American Comics anthologies, so if you’ve followed all their stuff you’ve already read some of this, but this a powerful pile of stories lumped together.  You’ve got mortality, cruelty to animals (in a few different ways), and even the story of a harmless prank gone wrong.  It’s a bit bleak, but it’s impossible to deny the power of these stories and his art is phenomenal.  This is the part where I should get into linework and if I was a professional artist I’d be happy to, but from my amateur perspective all I can say is that everything was crystal clear (sometimes too clear) and volumes could be taken from a glance or smile.  This won the Xeric award this year if you can’t see it on the title, and it’s certainly one of the best things I’ve seen lately.  Check it out, you may learn something.  $6.95


Price: $7.00

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