Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Moreton Of The Week #6: Minor Leagues 1-3

My feature on Simon Moreton concludes with his Minor League zines, issues 1-3.

Minor Leagues is Moreton's latest catch-all series, and in many ways, it's his most mature work. Looking at the first issue, it's that Moreton is still experimenting with different line weights and moving into some different territory. There's one drawing of an elderly couple sitting, watching some event. It's a sublime illustration, capturing their essential qualities with a few swooping lines here and there. Moreton mixes printed text & illustrations, text alone, text that inspires several pages of illustrations, and regular comics. I still prefer his most minimalist attempts at illustration the most, like the sketchy illos for a story about a trip to Paris that Moreton took. They are so expressive and beautiful that they almost seem as though they came out of Moreton's pen effortlessly. There's a sharply observed and reported strip about a trip to America when he was younger (including a few Warren Craghead style text immersions into the image), a gorgeous silent story about a long walk in the rain, and a lovely (and lively!) story about a trash can fire for leaf burning that was part of a memorable afternoon in his youth.

One of Moreton's skills as a storyteller is his ability to write a story about a memory and really inhabit it on the page, and then move on to a completely different era and inhabit that just as fully. Moreton's best selection of drawings ever came in Minor Leagues #2, in a section about summer that uses a hybrid visual aproach. There's a judicious use of splotches acting as spotting blacks, there are several variations in line weight, and there's a careful balance between a minimalist approach that nears abstraction and a sketchy naturalism that once again covers the essence of each character thanks to his use of gesture and body language. There's a photo series that seems to be a reaction to the disastrous results of Brexit, as though Moreton was almost saying that for a while, he could no longer see the beauty in the every day and abstract it from the original object. Interestingly, Moreton retreats back into drawing pictures of nature as a further reaction: birds, flowers, sunsets and even elegant graveyards, as though there was a more urgent need to create beauty than usual. There's also a letters section that's every bit as meditative and thoughtful as the ones that John Porcellino publishes in King-Cat. 

The third issue is shorter and sadder, as it focuses on the death of his father. After a strip about the uncertainty of his father's condition in a hospital, Moreton follows it up with an startling walk in the rain featuring a line that's about five times as thick as his usual line. The effect is a kind of heightened reality, one that's repeated later in the comic in a story about birdwatching. Moreton counters the sadness of the eventual death of his father with more images of flowers and memories of teenage hooliganism. The extensive use of negative space, the relaxed pacing of every story, the meditative quality of his prose and the general rhythm of each thick issue create a comic with powerful emotional content, using restraint to address some frequently intensely raw emotion. This is the best work of his career overall, and it looks like the best is yet to come with Moreton.

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