With Zombies hitting 100 and the Batman slapping out at his brothers, plus two superhero groups throwing fists over the ultimate power in the universe, it’s nice to sit back and enjoy a simpler story. Cue Li'l Depressed Boy, the story of one man’s journey through life, love and indie rock. The sentimental book written by S. Steven Struble and penciled by Sina Grace is something I look forward to every issue. Sure, I love superheroes, but it’s also nice to dig on a hero I can relate to.
Issue #12 continues LBJ’s job at a movie theater, starting off with a ride from Spike, one of the female theater managers. Right away, there is a sense of tension between the two, something executed perfectly by Sina Grace’s art. LDB isn’t so awkward that he’s weird around girls, but he lacks the confidence to avoid the friend factor. You want so much for he and Spike to hit it off. Part of what makes LDB such an effective series is that you root for him, the way you’d root for your geeky pal who likes a girl. As a reader, you want nothing more than for LDB to win in the end.
With most comic books there is a separation between art and the written word. With LDB, the two are seamlessly blended. In lesser hands an entire page of LDB working, eating a burger and then working some more would seem like filler. With LDB, the panels work more as snapshots to the tedium of his day. When you turn the page and see Spike, you’re just as elated for the break as LDB is. That’s when Struble’s words come in and heighten the drama. Spike and LDB talk for only one page but it sets the tone, it lets us know that something could be brewing between them. Then we’re back on a page of LDB living his life and hanging out with friends. Even with gaps between dialog, we know where the issue is headed and I promise you the end will make you cheer.
Turning everyday life into palatable comic material is tough. Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez, the list of those who can take the life we know and make it something we want to read is short. Struble adds himself to that list and then takes it a step further. He not only wants the story, he wants the mood. Struble wants the colors and the pencils to make us feel the story not just read it. Sina Grace has created LDB to look like a plain white cross between a kewpie doll and a crash test dummy. In doing that we can project ourselves onto LDB because that’s what he is, a reflection of us (at least those of us who would read the book).
Mixing the look of LDB with the low-key backgrounds and the rich colors gives us a visual indication of the emotions going on. The fusion of simple, funny and realistic dialog, blended with the surreal colors and the very real supporting characters, creates an entire world that surrounds us. We feel comfortable in an issue of LDB and any win for him is a win for us. That kind of emotional and intellectual involvement is what makes LDB not just a great comic, but also great art.
(4 Story, 4 Art)