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12 April 2010

My Brain Hurts: Volume Two by Liz Baillie

128 page graphic novel.  Black and white with color cover.  Published by Microcosm Publishing.  
$7.00.

I got a nice stack of books from Microcosm a while back and they all look very nice.  I'm very impressed by the quality versus the price point.  The variety of creators is also impressive.  I've heard of most of them and have been wanting to check out their books.  I'll work up reviews of all the books as soon as time allows.  

The first book I read was Liz Baillie's My Brain Hurts Vol. 2.  I think the cover drew me to picking it up first. It's a strong cover.  Notice how the ceiling and the crowd frame the main figure below the logo.  The interiors are nice looking as well.  From what I gather, this book collects material that was originally presented as minicomics so there is some inconsistency in parts but not enough to be distracting.  Baillie is a really good storyteller.  The story has an ensemble cast and jumps around a bit but Baillie does a great job of moving things along and keeping the story threads short.  The drawing is good but inconsistent in parts.  Some pages approach a Joe Sacco level of excellence while others seem like they came from a sketchbook diary.  Baillie's character designs are simple.  I had a little bit of a problem keeping characters separate in parts.  No worse than any John Byrne comic though.  (How do you tell Byrne's Superman from Lois?  Superman has an "S" on his blouse.)  The book is mostly dialog so there are not a lot of spots for Baillie to show off but in the few scenes of physical action Baillie does a good job of illustrating the necessary gravity or intensity of the scene. 

Microcosm's website describes this book and it's preceding volume as being about "queer punks in New York City".  I did not really read this book that way.  Sure, a few of the characters are gay but the problems these young folks are dealing with are pretty universal.  Family, relationships, jobs, fitting in with society etc.  I knew a lot of people like these kids when I was in my late teens and twenties and I've never been to New York.  The book felt real and ratable to me.  It felt a lot like memoir.  Baillie does a good enough job with the characters that I was kind of sad to see a "where are they now" section at the back of the book.  I would have preferred the idea that the story would keep going and that there would be a Volume 3.  

The book also has some nice behind the scenes stuff in the back.  Alternate pages, sketches and script pages.  I always love looking at that kind of stuff.  I love looking at the process and seeing an artist work through things.  That's a big part of the charm of minicomics.  That you can often see the artist working things out and learning on the page.  I see a lot of that in this book and expect that Baillie's next projects should be very good.

Your best pal ever,

Shannon Smith
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