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26 June 2008

Mat Tait's LOVE STORIES

Love Stories by Mat Tait.
http://mattait.com/
32 pages. Full color cover with black and white interior pages. Standard pamphlet comic size.
Samples of this book can be seen here.
$10. Email mtait@ihug.co.nz for purchase.




When I pulled this comic out it's envelope I was immediately impressed by the strong cover design. The colors are bright and bold but the drawing and choice of images has a ominous vibe about it. The cover is a neat blend of painterly and digital techniques which would be strong enough if separated but together create an image that is both aesthetically pleasing and a bit discomforting. I won't go on and on about the cover. You can look at it yourself in the pic above. The last thing I'll say about the cover is that it does set the tone for what you will find inside the book.

Love Stories contains five short stories. The themes and storytelling techniques vary but the drawing is very strong and consistent throughout. Tait's style is eloquent and efficient but there is also an edginess to the drawing. It may just be the tight shading lines or the boldness of the inks but Tait's characters exist in a world that seems to want to crush or slice them apart in any given panel. Both the writing and the drawing point to the fragility of life.



It would be wrong (and/or lazy) for me to call this comic "dark". There is darkness but it is very subtle. There is nothing truly horrible going on in any of these stories. It is just that the style makes me feel like something terrible may be waiting in the next panel. The storytelling is too engaging and whimsical to be dismissed something as simple as "dark". The Heading Dog Who Split in Half and Great Historical Disasters are quite charming and funny. Shortcuts to Enlightenment (sampled above) looks the most like a horror story of the bunch but the narrative is a clever parody of horror and self-help plans. Tait's strength seems to be to juxtapose the tone of the image and narrative with what is actually happening just enough to keep you guessing. Even the title is an artistic slight of hand. When I first saw crying face on the cover and read the title, Love Stories, I expected some sort of self-indulgent emo exercise but Tait takes it in a different direction. He is very aware of his reader and seeks to affect them with thoughtful storytelling. He creates a world and makes you feel like you are in it to the point where you skin might crawl just a little. A very clever and engaging work.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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