Funny Misshapen Body. Jeffrey Brown (writer/illustrator). Graphic Novel/Comics.
If you’re expecting an unbiased review of Brown’s latest book, Funny Misshapen Body, you’re totally in the wrong place. I’m a huge Brown fan and really, he can pretty much do no wrong with me. That said, I really enjoyed his latest offering.
Funny Misshapen Body is essentially the story of Brown’s evolution as a cartoonist, and maybe a to a lesser degree his evolution as a person. Like most of his work, the story is not told sequentially, but in random vignettes that shuttle back and forth in time.
The Good: As always with Brown, he has an incredible way of telling a story simply and honestly – no matter how embarrassing. In Funny Misshapen Body he covers everything from having Crohn’s disease in highschool, to the break up of his first real relationship, and including the horror of trying to get started as an artist and going through the ‘drunk college experience’ – Brown cuts no corners and spares nobody – least of all himself – and it is that honest unflinching look at his life that so endears him to me time after time.
Brown’s signature scratchy style (which you get to see how he came to in this book) remains one of the many ways that I think Brown keeps things honest – drawing straight on the page in pen, with no pencils done beforehand – almost forces the authenticity of his work. There’s no chance to filter, water down, or second guess it. He just draws what he feels and for me, it just works on so many levels.
The Bad: I wouldn’t really rate this as bad, but though I found the subject matter here fascinating, it was slightly less effective for me than I expected, I think in part due to the non-sequential style. I’m not exactly sure why, because even though an evolution seems like a sequential process, it’s really not. There are so many ups and downs and back and forths as you try to figure out who you are in life, and what kind of artist you will be that the non-sequential aspect shouldn’t be a problem – and I have loved that unique element in his other works – but it wasn’t as effective here for me. I can’t quite put my finger on why it was less effective for me here. Perhaps the fact that the vignettes seemed like more fleshed out fully realized stories – longer and more complex than his other stories – and so the out of sequence order became more confusing here, whereas in a work like Unlikely, it was almost impossible to tell things were out of order anyway…I’m really not sure. But at the end of the day it was a bit less successful than I hoped.
The Ugly: For me, there’s not an ugly panel here. For people that are not fans of Brown’s scratchy cartooning style I suppose this is not the book for them. As I’ve said to people that are not on board with Brown’s style before, whether you like it or not, you have to remember that it is a stylistic choice he is making. This is not the only way Brown draws, but he chooses to draw these small, kind of impromtu and unrehearsed panels as a way of further conveying his message. It’s one of the best things about cartoonists that write and draw their own books – the art is so integral to whatever they are trying to tell you – and in my opinion it’s never more true than with Brown’s work. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it, and that’s fine. But for those of us who “get it” there’s nothing better.