Feeble Attempts (Top Shelf)

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feeble-header.gifJeffrey Brown explores comedy, politics, and the tales of romantic anguish that are his bread and butter in this collection of odds and sods.

 

 

48 pgs. B&W; $5

(W / A: Jeffrey Brown)

 

Jeffrey Brown's collection of cast-offs and B-sides, Feeble Attempts, is pretty much three kinds of work: funny, clever stuff; understandably aborted crap; and the adolescent boy-girl relationship tales that are his stock-in-trade.

 

The cover to Feeble Attempts. Click thumbnail for a larger image."My Conspiracy to Not Sell You the New Garden State DVD" is a great account of dealing with an ultra-rude customer at a big box CD/DVD store where Brown apparently worked. In a surly performance, the customer demands a variety of crappy albums and videos while accusing Brown of acting like a snot. "Actually, Ma'am," he responds, "you're kind of a snot." For anyone who's worked retail, it's priceless. In "Don't Read the Yellow Paper," Brown the newspaper-delivery boy watches a woman lead her dog to a fresh pile of newspapers he is just about to pick up. He is rendered speechless as the woman encourages the dog to piss on them, which it does. It's a casual moment of fuck-offery that makes you nod in sympathy for the poor schmuck who has to clean it up (i.e., Brown). In "Cycloctopus," a superhero is humiliated every which way by a supervillain. The shame mounts, becoming a kind of glorious achievement, especially when the good guy loses the day. It's only Brown's "beautiful loser" tone dressed up in spandex, if you think about it.

 

The weaker strips, on the other hand, often end on an anti-climactic note that feels lazy.  Some of them have the sort of slice-of-life banality that Harvey Pekar made his following with, minus the rumpled Pekar charm, which pretty much leaves banality. It seems that when Brown has a dearth of ideas, he draws his day-to-day affair: meals, trips to the coffee shop or the record store, and even the drawing sessions themselves. Sometimes the "anti-adventure" is quietly moving. Sometimes it's merely quiet.

 

"I'm Not Your Girlfriend, Jeffrey" is what the fans want, and it's Brown doing what he does best: capturing the melodrama of his romantic dalliances. He wants her, but she's not sure if she wants him. He wants her, but does he really want her. Etc., etc., etc. A hundred years from now, confused adolescents—and older types who see the amusing aspect of all this delicious pain—will still be discovering Brown's be-still-my-heart love comics and swooning in simpatico. Maybe at this point Brown himself is tired of churning out letters-from-a-broken-heart; he's been at it for ages. If that's the case, well, tough titty—his comedy is sharp, but it just can't cut as deeply as his love stories.

 

There is another category of work here, too: political strips. A 9/11 comic captures the emotions of the day, when the banality of the nightly news was effectively shattered by the surreal images of the Twin Towers burning and collapsing. Other political strips read like tepid jabs at the conservatives. It's not Brown's métier.

 

For five bucks, this collection of Jeffrey Brown odds and ends is worth it. Yeah, some of it is "feeble," but let's cut the modesty. There's a reason why an extended strip of his made it into the just-published, prestigious Best American Comics 2007 anthology. He's got juice. | Byron Kerman

Click here to read a 10-page preview of Feeble Attempts (over 20% of the book!), courtesy of Top Shelf.

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