THOUGHT BUBBLE FORTNIGHT! Adopting a flip book format with a fun physical flourish, Matthew (Flake) Dooley and Joe (Stutter) Stone’s Split is (contradictorily) a collaborative effort that isn’t a collaboration. It’s double helping that perhaps showcases the more whimsical sides of the duo’s comics output. But those who have followed the practice of both artists will know that even at their more apparently light-hearted there’s often a darker humorous undercurrent running through their stories.
That titular theme of the Split is used in a variety of ways in this near 40-page one-shot. In Dooley’s half of the comic his main story is a return to those wonderful flights of fancy of much of his self-published output wherein an on-page approximation of the artist interacts with a world one step away from our own; in some ways even more mundane but at the same time littered with the most fantastical elements. In the short story ‘Split’ Dooley discovers he can automatically spawn other versions of himself through spontaneous asexual reproduction. Hoping that at least one version of him will finally make the effort to go out and buy some milk he keeps repeating this process with violently slapstick results…
Complementing this we also enjoy the misadventures of Dooley as a split hybrid in the form of a centaur. A cracking punchline-led intro leads us into some top visual gags and a longer entry with a combination of ridiculous mythological elements and deadpan humour, as half-horse Dooley meets a bullying Herakles in the British Museum. It’s that selfsame signature mix of clean lined cartooning and “fictional autobio” that has made his comics such a draw over the years.
Turning the comic over, and around, Joe Stone’s contributions are equally playful in tone. His initial story of the first living organism on Earth splitting for the first time as reproduction begins on the planet echoes one of Dooley’s offerings but from a more primordial perspective. Here Stone brilliantly uses page structures, panel counts and obscured word balloons to mirror events.
His second longer-form story here also experiments with page structure. Two parallel narratives that will eventually converge run across the top and bottom halves of each page, one depicting a couple’s rapidly deteriorating restaurant experience, with the other showing us what is simultaneously happening in the kitchen as the chef prepares their Banana Split dessert. It’s a clever piece of reflective storytelling and exactly the kind of structural manipulation of the form that Stone has become growingly adept at over the last few years. A neat character study that also makes intelligent use of colour to build dramatic tension.
Both “acts” of Split are recommended tasters for the work of these two artists, and their similar yet still individually distinct comedic styles perfectly complement each other. You can find Matthew Dooley at Table 50A and Joe Stone at Table 155 in the ComiXology Originals Hall at Thought Bubble.
Matthew Dooley & Joe Stone (W/A) • Self-published
Review by Andy Oliver