Writer: Nick Bryan Art: Rosie Alexander Publisher: Self-published
WHAT IS IT?
A one-off comic that's a kind of coming-of-age tale about coping with sickness, death and loss, but also about friendship and family, and how you can't get through life without those things.
It captures that melancholy teenage vibe very well, like The Way Way Back, but is more obsessed with the concept of death than being a misanthrope.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Teens run through a tower, kind of just having fun, kind of bugging some people who live there, but really not being that much of a nuisance. They're all wearing black hoodies with skeletons on them, and so we're left wondering what the other people who live in the tower are wondering -- what's with the skull 'n' bones? Is this some weird gang or cult? A fashion statement? And who's letting kids run amok through a tower? Where are their parents?
Or maybe that's just my reaction to the slow reveal of the facts informing the story.
Anyway, things quickly go off the rails a few pages in, like, in a pretty dark, Fantasia sort of way. But what I like about what Bryan and Alexander did here is they work the one-shot comic medium in their favor. As things go sideways for our protagonist, we don't know if this macabre fantasy is actually happening, or if it's just this pretend scenario she and her friends are acting out as a coping mechanism and part of their friendship. The result is this brief-but-poignant peek into the life of a teenager struggling to cope with illness and the possibility of death and loss, and the friends who support her however she needs to be supported, even if it's kind of weird and morbid, because that's just what friends do.
The art in this is so dreamlike, it almost looks like Rosie Alexander created the whole comic in black-and-white watercolor (see below)
The letters also look like they were created with watercolor, which helps keep dialogue short and builds on the dreamlike, emotional tone
There's a real art to doing the one-shot well, having to tell a complete story in just a handful of pages, and Bryan & Alexander use it to their advantage
Bryan's writing really effectively captures the muddled, emotional quagmire of teenagers coping with something bigger than they can fathom
I really liked how it's open to the reader's interpretation of the book's events and whether they were fantasy/reality
Absolutely gorgeous front and back covers
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
No color in the interior (if that bothers you), but the shading is very well done
Because it's a one-shot that's only 24 pages (including covers) and it plays with the fantasy/reality spectrum, it can be a little confusing as to what's really happening...but maybe that's part of the fun and artistic experience?
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The Little Deaths of Watson Tower is sweet and dark and beautiful and powerful, all at once. It remembers what being a teenager is like, how the heavy parts of life effect us at that age, and how important good friends are to getting through it.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Moonframe by Nick Bryan & Lucas Peverill
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol
If you like the art:
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Nick Bryan – Writer
New Face: This is Nick's first full-length comic!
He's also a novelist
Also discusses stories in his (and Alastair JR Ball's) podcast, Moderate Fantasy Violence
Rosie Alexander – Artist & Letterer
New Face: This is also Rosie's first full-length comic!
Outlander: Lives in the UK
"Her work is bright, incandescent and often flirts with the idea of saying more." -- self-description from her website
HOW DO I BUY IT?
Scroll down to the bottom of the page to purchase this comic in print or digital.
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
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