Lost Property is a beautifully paced piece of writing that examines one of the fundamental themes of the human condition – that need to find our own place in the world.
When terms like “eagerly anticipated” or “long awaited” are applied without exception to every single upcoming project to come into the comics media’s line of sight it is hardly surprising that, eventually, they lose all descriptive value. In the case of Andy Poyiadgi’s Lost Property from Nobrow Press, however, both expressions are entirely appropriate and equally devoid of hyperbolic intent. It’s not an overstatement, nor an exaggeration, to say that among the UK indie comics community the sense of building expectation about this book has been intense, and the accompanying awe-filled reaction to those few teaser pages that did creep out prior to publication has been remarkable to observe.
Poyiadgi has, of course, been a notable presence on the UK small press scene for some years, with the tone and presentation of his work veering from lyrical and pensive narratives – in anthology Score and Script, for example, or his Jonathan Cape/Observer/Comica short story competition entry Teapot Therapy – to eccentrically tactile objects like his “comics in a teabag” series Teabag Theories or his origami comic in Mike Medaglia’s Wu Wei anthology in 2013. While his approaches to the form have been idiosyncratic and diverse in terms of physicality they have largely all shared the same deceptively understated storytelling style and contemplative tone.
Lost Property is published as one of Nobrow’s ’17 x 23’ series and its 24-page length represents Poyiadgi’s longest comic to date. It tells the tale of postman Gerald Cribbin, a man whose working life revolves around the safe delivery of other people’s belongings. But when Gerald receives a call from the local Lost Property Office to tell him one of his possessions has been handed in he makes an incredible find. There, in the environs of this strange little store, is every item he ever mislaid or parted company with. What strange trick of fate led to this bizarre set of circumstances, and why? What long buried dreams will they bring to the fore? And just how will this unexpected discovery change his life forever?
From this curious but elegantly simple premise, with its almost Mr. Benn-style overtones of impossible locale hiding in the mundanity of the everyday world, Poyiadgi crafts a short story that rapidly evolves from eerie mystery into life-affirming parable. It’s a beautifully paced piece of writing that examines one of the fundamental themes of the human condition – that need to find our own place in the world – but with nuanced refinement rather than mawkish sentimentality. Gerald’s journey from conscientious but unambitious postie over the course of the 20-plus pages to a man unafraid to pursue his dreams is made all the more poignant by the fact that we observe this transformation largely through the eyes of his friend and Lost Property Office manager Agatha.
On a purely visual front I cannot stress enough how much of a comics masterclass in page design Lost Property is. This is a book that fully exploits the multiplicity of storytelling techniques specific to the medium, but with delicate and uncompromised subtlety rather than brash ostentation. Each individual image is gorgeously and meticulously rendered with an expressive clarity but it’s Poyiadgi’s deft and discreet ability to structure pages to elicit differing emotional responses from his readership that most impresses.
From the stunning double-page centrespread that traces out Gerald’s own personal timeline in relation to his lost objects, to skilful and evocative artistic devices to mark out the passage of time, through to individual panel design resonantly echoing the book’s ongoing motifs, this is a comic that is the most articulate of advocates for the argument in support of the unique narrative possibilities of the form.
A joyous reflection on taking ownership of the past and grasping the potential of the future, Lost Property marks the moment that one of comics’ best kept secrets was propelled to the next level of, hopefully international, recognition…