Nine Short Works Author:Jon Allen Review by Optical Sloth: — Nine Short Works — Would you believe that this comic has nine short stories in it from Jon? Shocking, I know. A good chunk of them are available for free at his website, just in case you wanted to look them over before continuing here. Itís a solid bunch of stories that range all over the place, but one continuing theme ... more »throughout is quiet. Thereís not a wasted word to be found, and everything that is said is relevant. Stories include a piece about a fight that got of hand between a couple of kids (and the loser of the fight in his later years), a chat between a woman and her mother about the things that get revealed if you watch the person youíre dating for their reactions to a movie, a day alone at a fancy home, the random kindness of a jump and the weird stuff in the guyís back seat, a stupid death and the entrance requirements to heaven, and a boy with a dead bird. Other pieces that were a little more interpretive (not that those pieces above are exactly cut and dried) include images of a Chinese restaurant, the stars disappearing and a series of escalating images and messages. Iíd go into more detail with that one but it lost me, so youíre on your own there. Anyway, it answered any doubts I may have had about the guy, so thatís a good thing, even if all of the stories perfect. A solid majority of them work for me. As for the price, your guess is as good as mine. It baffles me that a book thatís this well put together would make you guess such a thing, and his website isnít any help. $7? Sure, letís go with that.
Here's another review from the blog of Joshua Malbin:
At the other end of the career spectrum consider Nine Short Works, self-published by Jon Allen. These pieces are all voice and perspective, for the most part not even the semblance of a story. In ďLazy Sunday,Ē for example, a woman potters around her house, calls her sister for content-free small talk, then potters a bit more. Thatís it. In ďFun & GamesĒ a pair of boys get into a fight and one pokes out the otherís eye. In the closing panels a grown-up man in an eye patch barbecues on the patio with his girlfriend or wife. ďA Taste of ChinaĒ is nothing but views of the inside of a cheap Chinese restaurant.
This is narrative resolutely defying meaning; itís as if someone took Adrian Tomineís early Optic Nerve minicomics and stripped away even the small, poignant gestures toward character and plot that those contained. I could guess that the meaning refused by the majority of the pieces is locked up in the two cryptic, non-figurative ones also included, but thatís all it would be, a pure guess. The art gives no more clue: itís plain and functional, rather like Jeffrey Brownís.
Yet I like it. The pieces seem almost like poetic meditations rather than stories, maybe a little something like the prose poems of Francis Ponge.I appreciate the way they just sit there, stubbornly pointless.
In the unlikely event Jon Allen reads this and cares about my opinion, though, Iíll add this: Nine Short Pieces is a trick you can only pull off once. Itís a great introduction to an interesting mind at work. Now letís see what else you got.
You can read pretty much all of Jon Allenís stuff, including his new book Inside the Slow Spiral, at his website. Nine Short Works seems to be only on sale through Bergen Street Comics, so if you want it and you live outside Brooklyn, you might have to email him.« less