Thursday, August 06, 2009

Old Man Winter Review

Jim: So we made mention of "Old Man Winter" in one of our indies reviews and the creator, J.T. Yost, was kind enough to send us a couple of copies to review.

What We said then:

Birdcage Bottom Books
Old Man Winter & Other Sordid Tales GN by (W/A) J.T. Yost J.T. Yost's first collection of comics is alternately humorous and quietly devastating, but is consistently brutally honest. Story themes include animal abuse, a widower's internal struggle, and a bizarre junior high-school prank. Winner of a 2009 Xeric Award. 56 pgs, $6.95 Visit JT here
Lee: As always, I love proven commodities and this appears to be one. Even if Jim doesn’t agree, winning the Xeric award is no small feat, and the winning writers/artists/books typically are a cut above the rest of the comic world. The previews are pretty sparse but I liked what I saw. I’m looking forward to this book.
Jim: Sometimes award books are good and sometimes they are bad. I'd rather take a personal recommendation or from a reviewer I follow. With many good reviewers you know whether you will like something even if you opinion is different from the reviewer.

Jim: Now, while I do not look for slice of life stories like Lee does, I find when I read them I like them. I like them if they are done well and this one was well done.

Lee: I'm pretty sure we can end this discussion right now! If you like a slice of life story then it has to be good. I kid, but there's a certain amount of truth to my statement.

Jim: Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is a collection of some previous published material with the main story "Old Man Winter" being a new story. It was a very tough story about an old man who had lost his wife. While depressing, it was also a story that rang very true. In some ways, it was a very sad ending, in other ways an appropriate ending. It is a story that stays with you long after you have completed reading it.

Lee: Depressing is almost an understatement on the first story. And, that's quite an achievement in a 10 page short story. To be fair, while the story is sad, it was also very moving. It manages to capture the small moments in an old man's life that most people are aware of, but don't see. Yost’s art really managed to capture, and convey, the loneliness that can accompany getting older. I found the last story to be really strong too. It was a far subtler story which showed the difference between the man whose job was to clean up after the elephant, and the elephant himself. And, Yost managed to do all this in two facing pages. The construction was different from your typical superhero page. And, more impressively, Yost again managed to convey a wide range of emotion (mostly sadness) in a very short span.

Jim: I found the one story in the middle about the guy who experiments on animals and then has his wife leave him was a little odd. What were the dots at the end as the rabbit left him? Did he committ suicide or what?

Lee: See, I'm not good at all the symbolism stuff. I took the pellets to be rabbit poop. But, that's because I'm more literal. It could mean that his life was crap. Don’t ask me.

Jim: Finally, the middle story is a confession of the logging of his childhood friend was funny and sounds exactly like what kids at that age would do.

Lee: See, I'm didn't find that story as funny. I agree that it was accurate about what kids do but I'm not sure it was meant to be funny. I read it completely different, and found the characters to be losers with nothing better to do than abuse their friend. The story was strong, and I understood where it was going, but it was sullen in different way from the first story.

Jim: Bottom line I would recommend this book to fans of story about true life. No matter whether you read the story about the author as a kid about a loser or a typical bored teen or whether you see rabbit poop or symbolism that is undefined each story gives you something to think about. The titled story was the strongest and the one that will stay with me for a long time. My Mom is 87 and my Dad is 89, if either one of them dies I know the other will be close behind. At a certain point couples who have been with each other for so many years (64 years for my parents) almost become a single person. I can’t imagine one without the other and often that is the case for the couple themselves. Now JT Yost art won’t blow you away with its strength, but he it does the job that it needs to do. His sense of how to tell a story is superb and he could give lessons to a lot of people of how to tell a complete story in a few pages. Mr. Yost has gotten a lot of acclaim for his work and it is well deserved. So go out to Birdcage Bottom Books and order Old Man Winter or get your retailer to do the same.

Lee: If you’re new to slice of life stories this is a very good place to start. It isn’t always warm and uplifting but it can be very poignant. And, I have to disagree with Jim’s assessment of the art. advised, this is small press, slice of life art so it isn’t Perez, Bolland, or even Bizley. This is art that’s trying to push and explore along with telling a story. And for non-mainstream art, it’s very strong and Yost did a great job. Between page composition and the ability to capture emotions it was very well done.

Jim: Back to the art, I agree with Lee I just know a lot of super hero fans may be underwhelmed by the art, but Lee says it right.

If you’re new to real life comics, and been reading them for years, this is highly recommended! You can see Yost’s other comic work, and read the first story here.

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