Matt Boyce’s Everything is one of those anthologies that may appear a little disjointed at a first glance given that it collects strips that are often quite disparate in terms of style and presentation. I place myself on the other side of that argument however. Because, as an artistic statement on an individual creator’s grasp of the diverse possibilities of the form, compilations like Everything provide a fascinating showcase of the breadth of their approach to the page. From a critic’s perspective they’re a dream offering, though I will freely admit that to a casual punter there may be an element of the fragmented to the reading experience.
Between this minicomic’s covers there are 13 pages of strips ranging between a page to 4 pages in length. Boyce brings together themes of the autobiographical, the humorous and the broodingly contemplative and adopts a number of differing visual styles along the way. Most of the work is in black and white with the exception of the colour centre section which is also the highlight of the work on offer here.
Here we have a simple yet resonant metaphor that underlines the profoundly empathic connection Boyce fosters between author and audience. Recognisable emotional states are made all the more evocative by being stripped back to a basic but universally understandable visual core.
There’s a similar quietly powerful two-pager later that utilises a playfulness with the traditional structure of the page to poignantly depict two characters forever divided on the other side of a wall between panels.
Whether you choose to interpret it as a kind of separation anxiety, unfulfilled potential or something else entirely, there’s still an undeniable emotional truth at its heart.
Boyce’s humorous work here also speaks directly and effectively to the audience. A one-pager on how utterly tedious other people’s dreams are when recounted will make you nod in shared frustration. And the story of ‘Lonely Ghost’ takes a wry look at a newfound supernatural existence but has another essential deeper level of meaning beyond the surface superficial whimsy.
It’s that centre colour strip that is Everything’s finest achievement however. ‘Words in Fingers’ is a short piece of autobiographical comics wherein Boyce talks about the expressive possibilities of sign language and the occasional inadvertant conflict between speaking and signing that occur in his day-to-day interactions. Here a deliberately childlike artistic style is deftly exploited to convey the structural complexities of a non-spoken language.
Although I’ve used phrases like “deceptively simple” in this column before I’m somewhat loathe to repeat such an obvious critic’s fallback term to describe Matt’s work on Everything. Nevertheless, while much of the work here may seem unassuming to the eye Boyce has a sophisticated understanding of the communicative power of the form. Modest but profound, this is a must-buy for those attending the Crouch End Comic Art Festival in June…
Matt will also be tabling at the Crouch End Comic Art Festival on June 6th.
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