Writer/Artist: Jeffrey Brown
Publisher: Top Shelf
Jeffrey Brown’s latest, Miniature Sulk, is a 98 page 4” x 6” (truly miniature) book full of titled one panel gags and 6 panel or multi-page anecdotes, adolescent masculine fantasies and personal reflections. The “official” notice that prefaces Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn also applies to Miniature Sulk: “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” (And, by the way, this is the only way I’d get away with relating Huckleberry Finn to Miniature Sulk.) The purpose in reading Miniature Sulk is to enjoy (and identify with?) Jeffrey Brown’s often hilarious self-mocking portraitures, contemplations and whimsies. The copyright page claims “not everything in here is true.” Although if you asked me, I’d guess very little of the book isn’t taken directly from Jeffrey Brown’s life. Miniature Sulk reads that autobiographically.
Unlike Huck Finn, this book doesn’t present a running narrative. The first third of Miniature Sulk presents images of Jeffrey Brown’s childhood (in a section marked “My Brother Knows Kung Fu” which reinforces the sad universal truth that youngest brothers are burdened with suffering the cruel, unrelenting tortures of their older siblings) and then the “splash page” titled “Cute Girls Are Cute” initiates 17 pages of Brown’s childhood experiences with girls and adult experiences with women. After that though, it’s pot luck as the book presents a variety of discrete images and cartoons. One fifteen page sequence near the end of the book titled “To Wenatchee” seems completely out of place in Miniature Sulk as its tone is more serious than anything presented in the book and it doesn’t involve Jeffrey Brown as a character. (A few other gags at the end of the book don’t either.)
Some readers may relate Jeffrey Brown’s art style to that of a 5 year old, and I would assert that to be a completely unfair characterization. It’s much more sophisticated than that. It’s more like the art style of a 12 year old. In most pages arms have no elbows or muscles, heads are disproportionate, letters crash into each other or into the edge of the word balloons, objects like cats lack essential elements like…, say…, a mouth. And has anyone taught Jeffrey Brown how to use a ruler? To analyze the art style in this way, however, is a failure to understand that the style perfectly presents the stories of Miniature Sulk in all its hilarious mundanity. These cartoons present scenes of such compelling averageness that ONLY Jeffrey Brown’s art style can make them entertaining.
To be sure, several sequences in Miniature Sulk will leave you unaffected or even scratching your head in perplexity. But your bewilderment/indifference of one page sets up some side-splitting laughter at the next page. Your yawning at “Birthday Gift” and “Tickle,” for instance, leaves you unprepared for the uproarious images presented in the next pages with “Lunchbox” and “Elbow.” And NOTHING in the book prepares you for “Bitch Get Off The Phone.” A Mini Masterpiece!
Miniature Sulk is a frivolous book; it’s a funny book; it’s a unique book; And it’s a book worth your time and money.
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