The list of comics accomplishments of UK small presser Rebecca K. Jones is an impressive one. Her short story ‘Lazy Sunday’ was shortlisted for the Cape/Observer/ Comica Graphic Short Story Prize in 2015, her Cat Disco comics are much loved in the self-publishing world and she has been featured in such notable anthologies as Tiny Pencil, Dirty Rotten Comics and SelfMadeHero’s The Corbyn Comic Book. Last year she was shortlisted for the Laydeez do Comics Prize for her graphic-novel-in-progress. An expanded version of the opening chapters of that book, Boomerang, will also be available at this weekend’s Hackney Comic + Zine Fair.
When I interviewed Jones about her Laydeez do Comics nomination last year she described the premise of Boomerang in the following terms; “I’ve been trying to make something new by moving into social issues and doing something that’s a bit more personal. It’s called Boomerang and it’s about an unemployed psychology graduate who’s moved back home after graduation and it’s an exploration of issues around the 2008 recession and the following economic crash. It’s about a rite of passage of a few months of not knowing what to do and what it means to be an adult.”
What Boomerang recreates so acutely is that strange limbo period many of us will remember between graduation and becoming established in the working world; the crashing anticlimax after building up to something for three years of study and then suddenly finding ourselves adift and directionless. Central character Claire has returned to the family home in the town of Stonemarket, finding it both oddly familiar and yet strangely alien as well in the way that the people’s lives have moved on and changed. Stonemarket is a place of polite middle class sensibilities but with microaggressive undercurrents always rippling just under the surface.
Jones has a true talent for replicating believable and naturalistic dialogue. Set in the midst of the 2008 recession era, Boomerang is a catalogue of awkward conversations about employment issues, from mildly humiliating job centre interviews to depressing chats with old acquaintances that underline the declining currency of university degrees when it comes to the harsh realities of the job market. Jones alternates between these encounters and Claire’s own narrated thoughts on her continuing situation, punctuating these sequences with silent reflective segments or symbolic sections that add extra emotional layers to the story. As time moves on with no resolution in sight, the effect on Claire’s mental health becomes tangible.
It’s not difficult to see how Boomerang ended up on the Laydeez do Comics Prize shortlist. Moodily presented with a subdued colour palette that captures the subtly downbeat nuances of its narrative, it’s also a carefully paced collection of set pieces that engage our sympathy with its protagonist from the outset. Jones has a slightly dreamy visual style that is most appropriate for such a meditative work and she’s as at home with densely packed conversational pages as she is with quieter, more open, single illustrative shots that hit the reader with an understated but powerful emotional punch.
Publishers looking to Hackney Comic + Zine Fair as a potential venue for picking up new comics projects would be well advised to visit Table 21 to check out this thoughtfully crafted work-in-progress…
Review by Andy Oliver
Rebecca K. Jones will be exhibiting at Hackney Comic + Zine Fair on Sunday September 8th at Table 21.