Undeleted Scenes (Top Shelf)

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This collection of odds and ends from Jeffrey Brown offers a good way to catch up on the autobio artist's daunting catalog.

 

350 pgs. B&W; $15
(W / A: Jeffrey Brown)
 
It's hard to keep up with Jeffrey Brown. He puts out a new book about his life almost every year. Maybe that's why so many of his books feature scenes in which he draws comics. Maybe that's why the books look the way they do.
 
Many critics don't like the way Brown draws. I am not one of those critics. The art is loose to the point of looking slapdash. It feels like Brown had to illustrate everything as it spilled out of his head. His life happens faster than he can draw it, and the energy is clear in his attempts to catch up. What makes Brown's work clearly not the product of an amateur is the vibrancy of each drawing. There's too much vigor in the panels for them to be thoughtless, and the thoughtfulness is key. The pacing of panels makes the jokes and the emotions hit harder. Brown's funny strips are often laugh-out-loud funny. The “Let's Tickle Jeff” page of this book is a good example. Similarly, when Brown is at his best, the strips about women can be downright depressing. "I was fiddling with the defroster and thinking she was really interesting" reads the oddly-poetic caption in one panel of a comic Brown drew for McSweeney's, reprinted in this book.
 
All of the funny or sad moments in Undeleted Scenes are Brown's, but they're also universal. On the first page of this collection, Brown draws himself explaining to the reader that with each moment he illustrates, he aims to capture a feeling we all know. "Life experiences, feelings, situations," he says. "The things we all go through." It's impressive that Brown is able to so deeply mine his past to find those poignant moments and keep turning up gems.
 
This book is a collection of unprinted comics and pages from Brown's earlier books. It’s a good way to catch up on a daunting catalog, or it's a great introduction to an addictive body of work. It's essentially an odds and ends collection, but it reads like a greatest hits. | Gabe Bullard
 
Click here for more information and a brief preview of Undeleted Scenes, courtesy of Top Shelf.

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