Okay, cut to the short version here. This is completely in the wrong order. This review was written after writing a mini review of Smoo 6 on my best of 2012 post from the weekend. Here’s what I said….
“I have reviewed much of Simon Moreton’s work, including issue 5 of Smoo published earlier in 2012. I used the phrase “beautiful reduction” in the title of that review, and it really does summarise Moreton’s work in my mind so very, very well. Issue 5 was beautiful reduction, issue 6 is beautiful reduction near perfected.
What Moreton does here isn’t traditional, certainly isn’t narrative driven. In fact, it’s not a lot of things. But what it actually is is quiet simplicity, gentle beauty and complete clarity in the vagaries of the imagery that Moreton has been delivering consistently over the last few issues, and although it’s quiet, although it’s gentle, it’s also incredibly powerful to me.”
So, given that I’ve already put this up in my top 10 for the year, you can either read on for the details or skip to the end, hit the link to the webstore and buy the thing. Your call…..
The cover here tells you so much of what you may expect within… minimal art, architecture, the white space so packed with potential. Having seen them all since issue 2, it’s certainly been fascinating seeing his development thus far, and frankly his earlier work looks almost busy, and certainly somewhat sloppy in the detail on the page compared to the refinements inside this issue, but that’s merely indicative of how far Moreton has distilled both narrative and artwork over the course of the 5 issues I’ve seen.
There’s so much done here in so little. His work is simply marvellous, and continually impressive. For any who complain that comics don’t give great reading value they may have to redefine that argument here. Yes, to read Smoo once is a short thing. It always has been, and gets shorter and shorter if we simply take the reading experience as words per page.
But Smoo isn’t simply a case of words per page. It’s art and words, and mood, and evoking feelings, and memory, and isolation, and a sense of drifting, of ennui, of wonder in the small moments…. so much more than the surface.
Smoo is actually something of incredible reading value, a comic that you read. And read again, and again. But then, absolutely most importantly it plants an idea in your head, and you find yourself thinking about what you read.
In so many ways Moreton is using the comics medium to its greatest extent, gently encouraging (forcing being too harsh a word for something so enjoyable) us to derive every possible ounce of meaning from the imagery he presents.
What we have here in Smoo 6 is a culmination of his themes and work so far, an abstraction of his abstracted ideas if you will, full of all the things we’ve seen Moreton deliver before; drifting, observational scenes, mood described through pictures, where summer rain creates beautifully simple reflections on the paving stones, simple reflections in memory of skipping school and heading to Stonehenge, the splendid isolation of the place rather lost on these two youngsters, who get more from their journey and the temporary stolen freedom from their daily lives than the decorating skills of ancient cultures.
And each short tale plays out so delicately, pages prompting thought, your ideas of what information is loaded into each image playing through your mind as you read, but most importantly continuing to intrigue days later.
The most evocative strip is Houses/Homes where Moreton draws us into his world, starting with a beautifully rendered longshot of a house exterior and then narrowing down the field of view as we drift inside, each panel sparser, sparer, shading lessening, lines becoming simpler, definition delivered in a series of barely connected lines.
We cast our gaze round the house; its skirting boards, bare bulbs, windows, stairs, until the final two pages where we settle in the lounge. And in just 4 panels, culminating in one I’ve included below, we’ve transitioned from house to home; the pictures in frames or hanging on the walls, the sofa, the coffee table, the book, the steaming mug of coffee.
Home isn’t detailed or complex. Home is simply home, comfort doesn’t need much, either detailed artistic render or ever possession known to man. Sometimes home is a photo, a cuppa, a good book and a sofa to lounge in.
Perfection in 5 pages, telling so much. And across the comic as well, so very very good.
Alternatively, Moreton meant something completely different. Frankly it doesn’t matter. What he intended for his art to mean stops somewhat the minute he makes it public. My views on it may be different from the artists, but just as valid in their own way I’d posit.
I can see why Moreton chooses to work in short form but would be so interested to see how Moreton would deal with a longer form story, concentrating not on delivering more events, but narrowing down his view even more, lingering even more over his subjects. For example, I could easily have read a comic of Houses/Homes but I’m also aware that I may be a minority in that. But there’s definitely part of me wants to see Moreton go deeper, pulling things apart in almost forensic detail.
You can buy Moreton’s comics, including this sixth issue of Smoo Comics from Moreton’s webstore.