Minis Monday: Two by Desmond Reed

Posted by on October 18th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

 

 

Aloha and The Island
Desmond Reed
B&W; 13 pages each
Self-published; $2.50 the pair
etsy.com/shop/desmondreed

These two minis by Desmond Reed are unpretentious, immediately engaging, unaffectedly sharp, transparently fun and purposefully cartoony in the best senses of the word. They would make, however absurd this otherwise sounds, great comics to have a beer with.

Actually, that sort of absurdity would fit right in with the content of these books. In Aloha, two earthworms take a lunchtime offense over a third’s table manners and consider their future mealtime options. Dialogue ripples across a conversational gamut of childish pique, social convention, water-cooler small talk, mature conundrums and adult reasoning (Sorry. I can’t resist: Offending Perry takes a bite from his companion’s pile of dirt. Lionel complains about the potential for swapping worm spit: “It would be like we kissed!” Retorts Perry, “No, it wouldn’t. There would be no passion.”). The escalation from absurd to zany is accomplished through word and picture but there’s no disguising the complete, classically formed drama of tension, formulation, resolution and denouement in 13 little pages (Reed’s oeuvre comes here in two-by-four-inch doses).

The Island has a smaller cast with an even more streamlined premise: our narrator, a talking dog, has been marooned on a desert isle with a companion for five months. Their sustaining food source, indigenous coconuts, ran out three days before we are introduced to them. As with Aloha, there’s a complete dramatic arc of predicament, consideration, action and upshot and once more food, at its most fundamental levels, is central to the proceedings. Oh, did I mention that in the midst of his torments our protagonist finally realizes his companion is a talking hamburger? (Sorry again. Perhaps that should have come with a spoiler alert.)

 

 

Reed’s style is manicured cartoon minimalism. Straightforward line drawings are the full monty. No crosshatching, no shading, little texture, no thickness of line. Solid blacks appear only unobtrusively and when functionally prudent: the interiors of open mouths to denote characters speaking; the dark foreground and silhouettes to convey deeds done in the dead of night; the dog’s round nose; the deep, rich, plump hamburger patty nestled between the halves of a puffy bun…

Reed gives his characters plausibly natural, purposeful speech. The tempo of talk conspires with the Spartan visuals to appropriately frame and re-emphasize the underlying ludicrousness inherent in each situation. The framing can be small and subtle, such as Perry swallowing, or (relatively) prolonged and even more amusing, like Josh, our narrating dog, roasting a bit of bark on a stick over an open fire, then turning his head sideways to take a bite of the improvised chow. While there is precious little visual extravagance in Reed’s panels, the least little bit sticks way out to amusing effect, like the perfect ring of stones built to surround the campfire on the otherwise desolate island; also keep a look out for the appearance of spectacles in Aloha.

Each book has its own post-climax kicker where the best-laid plans, as Robert Burns almost put it, gang aft humorously a-gley. The concluding comeuppances reawaken a more sober wonder and clear-eyed appreciation for non-cartoon reality. Cheers!

 

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