Monday, May 18, 2020

Lauren Barnett's A Few Things You Should Know, Baby

If you've checked out Lauren Barnett's Instagram feed recently, you've noticed that she's absolutely on fire with new material after a long time away from comics. She's also back in the minicomics game, and her A Few Things You Should Know, Baby is typical of her sometimes absurd and sometimes heartfelt musings. This is perhaps the first mini I've seen aimed in part at actual babies, and Barnett noted she made it because so many of her friends were having children.

She tells the babies in question that the mini is filled with "truths, opinions, and goofs," but they should mostly "just enjoy staring at the high-contrast pages." That is an important detail, as the white text on black background, surrounded by white negative space, does catch the eye in the ways babies can notice. Most babies can only detect differences in light and shadow at an early age, but not much else in terms of visuals. Barnett goofs on crying, tells the truth in saying that you never owe anyone a smile, offers up a picture of a horse wearing a sun hat, and compares the baby to a soup pot since it takes baths in the sink. There's actually plenty of good life advice in here, like being kind to all animals (including humans), and Barnett balances sweetness with genuine bemusement at the concept and behavior of babies. Her art has never looked sharper, and that adds a lot to the gags. No matter what the subject, Barnett's mix of silliness and devotion to facts makes her minis hard to pin down. She keeps the reader off-balance but never swerves too far away from her original premise. 

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