by Jeffrey Brown
Sulk, the new series of self contained mini graphic novels from Jeffrey Brown, is something of a one man anthology title with Brown finding time to stretch his wings a little and write about various subjects close to his heart. But it’s the choice of subjects that you may find strange. After all, who knew that the Jeffrey Brown of such introspective, delicate and poignantly funny autobiographical tales has a hankering to tell stories of ironic superheroes and mixed martial arts cage fights?
Sulk Issue 1 is the weaker of the two issues, with Brown telling multiple stories of his Bighead superhero character and playing with the concepts of more traditional superhero comics; the team-ups, the origins, the death and rebirth stories. It’s fun and the moments of self-referential commentary are nice little touches, but overall it’s no more than okay. It’s a good superhero parody but I’ve seen a few too many of those and as enjoyable as Bighead is, it’s nothing really new or fantastic.
But the one thing that Sulk issue 1 does show is that Brown’s cartooning is improving every time he puts ink to paper. His autobiographical stuff is, by it’s very nature, a lot of talking heads talking to each other. Great stuff without a doubt, but it’s very much something to read rather than something to look at. With Bighead he shows that his composition and ability to delineate good, strong action sequences is just getting better and better. He’s capable of some really great panel and page layouts and shows it all off here. More on that later.
(Jeffrey Brown’s Sulk #1 featuring Jeffrey’s Bighead hero and a host of superhero comic archetypes.)
With Sulk issue 2, Brown tries something completely different and it’s a fascinating thing. “Deadly Awesome” (great title) is essentially a 96 page mixed martial arts cage fight scene. It’s obviously a subject Brown loves, possibly to the point of obsession, because his incredible enthusiasm for the story is infectious and over the course of the comic I couldn’t help but find myself not only enjoying what he was doing but getting more and more involved in the action. Page after page of beautifully choreographed action sequences, breaking down a three round fight into something almost ballet-like. All the speed and technique of manga but with a very western artistic style. Most impressive stuff and far, far more enjoyable than you or I would think on first impressions.
(Jeffrey Brown’s Deadly Awesome, 90 plus pages of fantastic fight scene)
It’s a very quick read, as you should expect from something that barely covers 10 or so minutes in real time, but in addition to an awful lot of detail in his captions that analyse and report on the action, Brown also takes time to throw in some very funny little asides and delves into the thought processes of each fighter to add an extra layer onto what is truly a fascinating and really enjoyable bit of comics.
(More from Deadly Awesome, with Jeffrey Brown’s obvious hours and hours of mixed martial arts viewing visible on every page.)
We’re promised that future issues of Sulk will contain “science fiction and fantasy stories, as well as meditations on the comics form, and more!” And based on how much fun I had with Sulk 2 and the continual improvements in Brown’s art and storytelling I think it should be something well worth seeking out; you can follow Jeff’s work via his blog here.