Wednesday, August 15, 2018

I Had Issues! My Old Review of Seeds by Ross Mackintosh

A small piece on a comics creator I should look up later to see what he did after this book. I hope I find more books from him. Originally published September 2, 2011. Reposted here with minor edits.
A graphic designer turns (or returns) to creating comics. This is not an uncommon story. What makes it perhaps less common in this instance is that UK based creator Ross Mackintosh starts right off the bat with a personal account of loss that most seasoned creators would think long and hard on before tackling.

And it works. Major props for that.  

Seeds is 60-odd pages following the author's final days with his father, dying of cancer. As someone who lost two family members to this disease (one directly, one due to the effects of the chemo) and tried writing about it with various levels of success, I tend to read stories like Mackintosh's more carefully.

I keep going back to the book's length, if only to nitpick it. Seeds is a very light book and pretty inexpensive for those of you looking to discover new artists. Still, I mourn the endangerment of the floppy 32 page comic, which is a much kinder and more forgiving format for aspiring comics creators coming out with their first work. I keep wondering if such a short story could have been written with even more brevity if only the current market could support it better.

Still, the pacing of the story is quite brisk as Mackintosh moves it from diagnosis to hospital to hospice along with his father, who is affable in the face of his mortality, peppering the story with light moments while still keeping it human and real. The quick pace also reflects the emotional state one can have of everything going too fast when cancer surprises a family (which happens more than you might think).

 I find little in the way of padding. The author's conversations with his co-worker (in part discussing his drawing a graphic novel) take up less than five pages, though they could have been removed with little effect to the emotional drama.

Those pages are partly put in, I suspect, to help parallel the cancerous "seeds" in his father's body by showing seeds of growth in his new life's direction as an artist. It's a stretch (though tiny), and there might have been other condensed techniques to parallel the seeds taking his father's literal voice as the author finds the way to his own artisic voice, though perhaps not many.

Like I said, I'm nitpicky. I also thought there was one too many (well-meaning) intros for such a small book. It's a little like having a 20 page poetry chapbook self-published and having a friend to write the intro (a minor crime of which this reviewer is guilty). It feels like a first work from an author who's partly ready to have it be their last but wants to say as much as possible in one try. I hope there is more to come and that Mackintosh finds outlets (he says in the book there isn't much of a comics scene in Britain) and shares both shorter anthology style pieces and even longer (though equally ambitious works).

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