I’ve followed Azzopardi’s work for several years now, and frankly it’s never been more honest, enjoyable or rewarding as it is here.
His work has been moving in a certain direction in the last few years, across the comics Nine Months In Beige, Eight Tablet Dream and Same Day Return, hell even his sketchbooks have been evoking something of a thoughtful, more autobiographical sense. The content has become far more personal, even as it becomes less linear, more concerned with evoking mood and memories than telling a simple story, the narrative disconnected, ideas and subjects drifting, recounting events of Azzopardi now and Azzopardi of younger days. Yet despite the disconnected non-linear nature, what results is remarkably coherent, with common themes of isolation, drifting, the nature of life passing by as transient and fleeting as rain on glass.
Just as Azzopardi’s writing has evolved, his art has developed, his style more relaxed and open, often dispensing with the formal ideas of page layout, images free-floating, across the page, all the better to evoke the moods and memories. For a start, that’s a truly lovely cover, cleverly playing with the image and composition, colours popping from the image.
To give you an idea of the mood and the way Azzopardi tells this story across various times in his life, here’s part of the first comic page proper…
Inside, you’ll meet Azzopardi as a teen, struggling to settle, split family life not conducive to stability, 17-years old and living with his Aunt, then off to his dad’s place, a pub not the best environment for his dad and step-mum’s relationship, the alcohol fuelling the fighting, the general mundanity of Azzopardi’s life punctuated by arguments with dad and occasional care parcels from best mate Matt, sometimes weed, sometimes the odd tab of acid.
That’s a great page, Azzopardi’s free-floating images carrying you through the drama without need for panels, a terrifying fight too far sending Azzopardi off to London, to Matt’s place, and first freedom.
Forward and back, pages jumping to Azzapardi now, bong shopping, a letter from his mom reinforcing the idea from earlier that family life for Azzopardi the younger was far from straightforward, further back still, 13-year old Azzopardi and footballing mate wandering home from school idly talking football things (Shilton or Clemance?) and embarrassing moments at school involving dog shit on shoes, hot summer days, and a girl they fancy. It could have seemed confusing, or at least disconnected, but no, Azzapardi makes it all flow with easy conversational style.
The carefree conversational tone coupled with the background of summer days of forthcoming holidays and blue skies full of wisps of white cloud set us up for something nasty, dark, violent, the bullies over the horizon to deliver a completely unwarranted beating there to ruin the day and remind us that life in all forms is full of darkness to contrast with any light. The encounter does allow Azzopardi to deliver a particularly impressive double page, the bloodied teen surrounded by a delirious fog of past and future…
That’s just half of it, imagine how good it is double that?
Yes, Rain On Glass is a reminiscence of sorts, Azzopardi considering moments, captured visually in that double page, of family and friends, anecdotes of pawned bass guitars and school days sitting comfortably alongside a longer tale of teen Sean and another mate deciding to follow the Jesus And Mary Chain on tour, ending up sleeping on the support act’s hotel room floor.
All of it points to Azzopardi in transit, something he seems particularly good at. Moving from place to place and time to time in life as he does on the comic page, one situation to another, never particularly good, never settling. The final couple of pages, as we transition from then to now, to youthful joy of ears ringing post gig euphoria to trudging through the rain is a perfect end, the page layout again used so well, creating isolation and transition with those enormous pauses, that huge white space…
Beautifully done, the page above merely the beginning of the end, Azzopardi pulling everything together in a finale deliberately leaving things open to interpretation, a reflection of a life passing by, as difficult to get hold of as that same rain pouring down the window glass.
In addition to Rain On Glass, Sean also has a new pdf collection of lunch break sketches that he’s made available for free from his website… link here. And here’s just one of the sketches..