In the past here at Broken Frontier I have described Patrick Kyle’s practice as something akin to an “abstract comics masterpiece”. A description that, unsurprisingly, ensures his approach to the page finds a most suitable home at the publishing residence of Breakdown Press; themselves great champions of comics that gnaw away at the perceived boundaries of the medium. Kyle’s latest book Baby collects his previously self-published zines from 2019-2021 in a single volume for the first time.
Baby is essentially a reflective visual essay on existential absurdity from the viewpoint of the titular protagonist. An individual whose relationship with the world around him is just detached enough for his commentary on it to come from the dual perspective of observer and participant. We join Baby on the day of his birth when his first instinct is to squirm away from parental governance, and we follow him through his journey to maturity and beyond, as he rejects and subverts the usual rites of passage that direct and define the rest of us.
Five chapters detail Baby’s life (or lives) as the often cyclical and seemingly inescapable realities of his world are presented to us. Baby’s ill-advised desire to reach adulthood, the confines of employment, identity and family conflict, meaning and purpose are all explored in his interactions with an environment that he neither truly understands nor cares to. It’s like a reverse epistemological quest where the philosopher looks not to find or define the structure of existence but to reject it instead.
Kyle’s minimal panel-to-page ratio ensures a lively sense of energy and movement, with his strangely disproportioned cast somehow working to symbolise the profound in the incongruous. If Baby sounds like a stream-of-consciousness journey into a mind in constant metamorphosis it’s largely because it is. Coherency is often suppressed by a teasing immediacy; the moment far more important than the denouement. Employing Kyle’s signature distorted, unpredictable and sometimes elusive visual storytelling Baby is a strong start to Breakdown Press’s 2023 publishing schedule.
Patrick Kyle (W/A) • Breakdown Press, £16.99
Review by Andy Oliver