Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coffee and Beer Money

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Coffee and Beer Money (French Toast Comix, 2011).

Becky Hawkins was kind enough to let me know about her fun little journal and autobiography comics, which she publishes online and sells at conventions under the banner "French Toast Comix." Honestly, they're a little outside my present interests, but in Coffee and Beer Money, her latest 24-page mini-comic, she tells some pretty funny stories.

I think that the seeds are here for better, more assured work down the road. There are some undeniably funny episodes - an uncle shrewdly observing that she's doomed her self-caricature to the role of unromantic lead, a passerby misinterpreting her criticism of quad bikes and their turning power - but they lack context, in longer stories where the punch lines might mean a little more. I love Hawkins' sense of timing. Both the page where she gets yelled at about the bike and the first page of the longer story about her accident upon one of them feel very Pete Bagge to me, and I can't make a more complimentary comparison, but Bagge would include these hilarious moments as beats within a longer story, with less omniscent narration and more dialogue between established characters, and the moments would be even more memorable. There would also be less waste of negative space. The quick story about the uncle is a simple, two-panel observation, crying out for more context and more information.

I like her character designs, but her inking is sporadically rushed and blotchy. One page, regarding high school girls dressing trampy at cons, is particularly troubled by this. I understand the desire to use the medium as a journal, but when this results in work as uneven as that can be, perhaps the art should be redrawn before publication.

Still, when Hawkins nails it - a one-page story about the best-laid plans of putting on a good table at a con falling apart before the weekend wraps, a longer, hilarious story about an ex who phones with an aggravating new job - it's very good work indeed. She doesn't completely succeed all of the time, but when she does, it is great, and the misfires at least suggest better material could be drawn from it. There's enough to enjoy and consider to certainly make this worth the price. Recommended.

A PDF of this comic was provided by the author for the purpose of review.

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