I subscribe to a lot of small press publications. One of the best thing about it is that you get actual surprises in the mail. Because these are small, after-hour operations, you’re never sure when you’ll get the products. Still, that just makes it better when it happens. Alec Longstreth had a busy year finishing his Basewood story, and you should bookmark his blog to see what he’s been up to lately, or just to save time, I’ll tell you to pick up the latest issue of Phase 7.
I like his latest effort from the perspective of a comics lover and from the perspective of being a generation behind him who isn’t enamored with the same things he is. Issue #17 focuses on the band Weezer, specifically their so-called “Blue Album,” which was getting on the airwaves just as I was finishing college. It’s a nice package where Longstreth breaks down his appreciation for the album with a chapter for each song. I was never as emotionally invested in them the way I was in earlier 90’s grunge and alternative era acts. Nearly two decades and multiple taste changes later, I don’t seek out Weezer nowadays, but neither do I listen to Pearl Jam. I felt like I was the perfect audience to read this objectively and determine whether or not he succeeded in expressing his appreciation by way of a multitude of anecdotes. Did he succeed? Well, I might actually download the Blue album on itunes the next time I get gift cards, so that counts for something. Also, I’m excited that this is part one of a trilogy of tributes to the band, so yes, good job!
My only other observation has to do with Longstreth’s skill as a cartoonist. Meaning that he doesn’t seem very confident sometimes when he should be. Longstreth sometimes has caption boxes to accompany an action that he or another character is doing. Sometimes, it’s done to good effect and good humor, like the three pages where he’s depicting his drunk karaoke of “Buddy Holly.”
At other times, he can overdue it, and it seems extraneous, like when he describes a friend intentionally missing a high-five.
I actually got that what happened without the words, and I doubt anyone else would have been confused. I say this less to nitpick and more to point out that his cartooning has gotten better and doesn’t need the same captions to explain actions whereas younger, less experienced cartoonists might have to. In his introduction to issue #17, Longstreth says he is trying new techniques to produce work faster, and even at this early point I can see that the quality isn’t being sacrificed.