Sean Maher's Quality Control

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

APE Decompression: Cry Yourself To Sleep

Top Shelf is calling Cry Yourself To Sleep "a stellar debut," and while I'll go with the first part, this ain't his first book. Homeboy's been making really awesome mini-comics for at least three years now - his table was my very first APE experience, way back in 2004. Which is weird, because as a result I recognize all three main characters here - but more on that later. At any rate, that's just me quibbling, like one of those kids who got a rapper's first mix-tape cassette for a couple bucks way back in the day; don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years, y'see.

This book does mark something new though, and it's really friggin' awesome - he's been picked up by Top Shelf. They're really the perfect publisher for him, and in turn he seems to have put a lot of growth and thought into this, his debut graphic novel.

I said last year that Tinder's stuff was "drawn and written in a simple, crude style that should appeal to all the folks who tell me Craig Thompson and James Kochalka are great comics artists." What a cocky little shit I was!

What's funny is that I don't really see the resemblance anymore. At a glance, Tinder's style seems to remain the same here - it's simple and iconic, with nuanced emotions coming through in clean, minimal lines. I think that may be the difference; the sketchy quality is becoming more consistent and more expressive. Faces without pupils in the eyes still radiate inner turmoil of all kinds, and the dialogue invites us to read between the lines and push ourselves into the story.

S'funny, because as I said, these are all characters I'm familiar with. There's a robot, for example, who decides over the course of this book to become a better person. My read of this was probably enhanced a bit by this mini-comics (click to enlarge)--

--which I read last year. Don't get me wrong, I think CYTS stands on its own perfectly well, but the recurring characters are a nice Easter egg of sorts for us lucky APE folks.

Anyway, the story being told here is a deceptively simple one, following three parallel character arcs that all inform and reflect each other. Everybody's got a challenge - Andy Saturday is lost in his own head, talking to himself and writing fiction that only reproduces what he sees in his own life; Jim the rabbit is angry and broke, unable to hold jobs because he just can't seem to find a boss who's not an asshole and out of rent money because he's spent it all on video games and strippers; and then there's Robot, a character who'd remind us of Data from Star Trek is Data had been a callous asswipe before deciding he wanted to become more human.

All three characters' needs are different incarnations of the same challenge; all three are struggling to connect to the world and relationships around them.

There's really no point in explaining it past that; it's a sweet story, with some heart-warming suggestions and occasional poop jokes.

I love it.
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