Folding In: Minis From Aaron Cockle and JT Yost

Posted by on June 30th, 2010 at 5:52 AM

Rob reviews Aaron Cockle’s mini ART THEFT and LOSERS WEEPERS #2, by JT Yost.

The latest comic from Aaron Cockle, ART THEFT, is another fine example of his cheekily postmodern interests. In many respects, this 8-page comic is his most accomplished story to date. It’s a retrospective case study of several art museums that get robbed of all their exhibits, with the perpetrators getting away scot free each time with no clues left at the scene. The narrator was an expert hired to investigate these crimes, but he was as helpless as anyone else.

That’s a clever enough premise, but Cockle immediately turns it on its head by revealing that the robbed and barren museums started drawing more people than ever before, thanks to them wanting to see the site of a crime without a resolution. Museums that hadn’t been robbed began removing their own pieces to draw crowds. Cockle then folds the premise in on itself when the perpetrators of the crime uploaded a video of how they committed the crime and another of them destroying the art. That led to a public outcry against art itself, a series of wars and other vaguely defined events, until the acts of depiction and creation themselves were considered to be abhorrent.

Cockle’s art has grown less fussy and more austere, and that simplicity lends itself well to the sort of postmodern ideas he’s trying to depict. His line is simple and his stark use of blacks heightens the paranoia and confusion of the story. In particular, a blob of black ink is used to simply depict art that’s burning. Cockle varies his page and panel design in interesting ways, especially in how he overlaps word balloons to give a sense of the breakdown of language and meaning itself. It’s no coincidence that the art thieves wore masks that had punctuation marks on them: meaning was being taken apart, bit by bit. Cockle’s comics embrace absurdity in the Beckett sense, taking apart language and the language of images in a coldly bleak yet still humorous manner. As he grows ever more confident and bold in his art, he has the potential to establish a unique niche in the world of comics.

In LOSERS WEEPERS #2, JT Yost continues using his found-writings technique to pull together a new story.  It’s different than the sort of thing that Esther Pearl Watson does in that he’s frequently just working from scraps found in the trash or other random places, but he always draws from several sources.  This issue mines the same sort of bleakly humorous vein that Cockle draws from, but this time from an entirely naturalistic perspective.

Here, Yost uses a desperate love letter from a Hispanic man, a horribly-written school essay from a girl and a real-life invective of a note written by someone objecting to someone’s parking space choice.  Yost turns this into a story of desperate people who make worse and worse choices and get more and more abuse as a result.  Yost is a solid craftsman with a loose and expressive line that’s ideal for the emotional outbursts we see in this book.  The randomness of the found writings is matched by the lack of a pat resolution to the story of a hard-luck mother and her troubled children.  Yost’s eye as an editor is the most impressive thing about this comic, because it had to be arranged around the found writings.  Yost’s ability to find a story hidden in these scraps revealed a creator able to create structure out of very little.

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One Response to “Folding In: Minis From Aaron Cockle and JT Yost”

  1. jtyost says:

    Thanks so much for the review!
    Just to clarify, the lack of resolution occurs because this is an ongoing series. This second issue actually ties into the first and will continue for several more issues.