Monday, 13 June 2011

Review: Up A Blind Alley by Scott Jason Smith

This comic is the first autobiographical work i've read by Scott Smith.  I'd previously read his 3 issues of "Paunch"; a suberb, darkly funny, well written collection of strips, with some very interesting characters (Charlie Cymric and Forbes Thorpe are memorable). The tone and feel of those issues of Paunch, I would say, was kind of like a lovechild of Dan Clowes and British small press veteran Paul Rainey, but a child that had long since cut the umbillical chord, stood on it's own two feet, and had gone off to explore weird and wonderful terrain of it's own. In other words; it was good.

So I was eager to read Up A Blind Alley.  The pace is slower, a bit more considered than paunch, and the humour more slight to start with. Scott portrays himself as an affable if somewhat isolated character, a little at odds with the world (like most comic artists in auto-bios). We see his anger at the reaction of a youth when an old lady falls and bangs her head badly, we join him at one of those uncomfortable parties where everyone else knows each other and talks exclusively amongst themselves, or else act like rude, self-obsessed c**ts. After the party, and the walk home, the next few pages have a Chester Brown look & feel about them, there's a dream sequence, then the process of Scott on his own, waking up and deciding what to do with the day...I enjoyed the little joke in this section, a subtle dig at the TV show "Friends". Up to this point of the comic, I was engaged but not as wowed as I had been with paunch.

Then the book picks up pace, as Scott decides to spend his Sunday in a pub, and meets a few annoying and unsavoury characters, my favourite being the guy in the sample to your right (click to enlarge).  This is more of the kind of  humour I enjoyed in Paunch; well-observed and laughter inducing, especially when followed by Scott's horrible realisation that the bloke has the same jacket as him, and wonders if that's how he'll end up.

By this point, it feels like the comic has gone from a self-conscious slow pace to a more confident stride. A paranoid misunderstanding in the local fish shop is done really well (a bit of a Larry David moment), and other highlights include an insight into Chatham nightlife, and an overheard conversation on a train where a teenager tells tall tales to his mate, in an effort to impress him, which is comedy gold. The ending isn't the best, but it feels non-contrived and the comic IS to be continued. There's plenty of funny moments, pathos and intelligence in this book to keep the most jaded stalwarts happy, and the artwork is really nice....I'm looking forward to part 2 & also Paunch #4. Here's a link to more of scott's comics, and you can also contact him from the same site.

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