Sam Baldwin’s second issue of anthology Junk begins with a two-pager detailing a number of ever more outlandish ways way to dispose of the comic should one make the supposed mistake of buying it. It’s a bit of self-deprecating fun that immediately puts the reader at ease in a collection that never takes itself too seriously. Baldwin’s set-up for the interlinked strips that follow may be a simple one but it’s also rife with possibilities.
Revolving around life on a London housing estate, our hosts for this occasion are two elderly widows Dorothy Leanard and Dorothy Bryan – aka Dotti and Dora – whose reality TV show features their fellow residents. Each strip focusses on either the unlikely cast that live there or events in the vicinity. There’s the comic-worshipping youngster Little Buddy Wulf, nobody Mr. Julian Wallflower, would-be but inebriated super-hero Night Shift, a pair of millennial Instagrammers, and even an unlikely brief alien incursion into Junk’s pages.
Each strip is a brief character study with some notable elements of ludicrous humour. Dotti and Dora’s foray into pensioner vigilantism as they leap across rooftops with zimmer frames and walking sticks in tow, or the drunken slapstick antics of Night Shift (alias TfL worker Frank) the most inept costumed hero imaginable. What really stands out here though is Baldwin’s multiple approaches to page structure, panel-to-panel storytelling and presentational formats.
Two-page single illustration spreads, emphasising the estate’s surroundings or Dotti and Dora’s nosiness, mix with sequential storytelling that constantly shifts in terms of perspective or construction. The story of ‘Mr. Julian Wallflower’, for example, mostly ignores narration or exposition to instead highlight the mundanity of Wallflower’s life through silent focus on the trappings and detritus of his futile existence before it segues into the next story.
‘SuperZero’ featuring Night Shift uses packed multi-panelled pages to depict both the action and the inaction of his life while ‘The Immigrant from Space’ featuring an alien visitor to the planet making a new life here plays with comics’ specific relationship to the passage of time with decades passing through the course of the panels of its two pages. Newspaper pages, small ads, and even a tear-out Junk pennant all add to the unpredictable and eclectic contents of the anthology. With its alt leanings and truly indie sensibilities Junk #2 is a welcome return from this anthology after too long a gap.
Sam Baldwin (W/A) • Self-published, £10.00
Review by Andy Oliver