ED – Sean Azzopardi’s mini comic series collected but not really connected….
I came to Azzopardi’s work after he’d produced the majority of his Ed strips and only saw his character for the first time last year with the second B.A.S.T.A.R.D.S. anthology where I said this:
“The ED strip has a relaxed and more rounded art style than Azzopardi’s other work, and tied with a simple, introspective story of ED attempting to find himself a studio and ending up converting his shed it’s made me look forward to more.”
With ED, Azzopardi’s created a simple everyman, a blank slate of sorts to reflect whatever he wants. But unfortunately, all we really get from ED in longer collected form is a tale of uncertainty and prevarication. It’s by no means bad, far from it. But it’s just a little too disjointed and limited in emotional scope to really engage me and although it’s enjoyable, easy going stuff, it’s slightly lacking in this longer form.
ED lives a simple enough life, mostly concerned with an ongoing deep uncertainty over women, with whom he can’t really seem to form relationships – ED is classic friend but not boyfriend material. And then there’s his work frustration – ED’s a prevaricator. Anything will pull him away from the drawing board – usually a beer in the back garden with the flatmate.
But even when he tries to get back to the drawing board he finds himself torn away – and that proves to be a nice setup for the comedy sketch part of ED – where poor ED just can’t manage to sit at the drawing board for more than a couple of minutes without someone knocking the door or ringing the bell:
(How many ways can an artist be distracted. Answer; as many as is needed for the gag to work. From ED by Sean Azzopardi)
Over the course of the book we drop in and out of ED’s life, and his life seems to consist of work and love – ED struggles with getting the work done and struggles even more romantically – so instead of working, he finds distraction with his flatmate and shared reminiscing over a beer where we learn of past “just friends” moments on both their parts. With ED it was a girl called Marion, and he’s terribly worried it’s going the same way with the current object of his affections; Amanda.
He’s even partly convinced that his flatmate and Amanda are actually together, something not helped later when poor ED finds himself trapped in his newly claimed studio (or the shed, as it was previously known) whilst Amanda and flatmate have a cosy chat outside. Poor ED is just a bundle of uncertainty and worry sometimes (but aren’t we all?).
(Azzopardi uses the change of scene to effect a change of page layout. Very nicely done as well. From ED by Sean Azzopardi)
In the final story ED takes himself off to Cornwall to stay with old (unrequited) flame Marian for a research trip. The thing is, by this time, he’s perfectly resigned to the friend role and has a great time, although it does cause a few problems, on his return, with Amanda. Will it work out for ED? I couldn’t possibly say (buy it yourself). But I will say the ending works, it’s sweetly and sentimentally done perhaps – but I like a little sweet sentiment.
For me, the very best section of ED comes as a tiny interlude piece. Nothing more than ED going out onto the shed roof to view the sunset. But it’s a wonderfully underplayed, emotive moment. It’s just lovely and reflective. A beautifully observed morning’s pause in life:
(Simple, lovely artwork and a beautifully reflective moment from Sean Azzopardi’s ED)
It may be considered an interlude, but really, with ED, everything’s an interlude – the whole book is just us dropping in and out of a drifting life. And although it’s enjoyable watching this interesting, very familiar character go through the romantic and work struggles, ED is just a series of snapshots, as you might expect from a work collecting a series of minicomics. But it has too many recurring themes and too little to really connect them together in a satisfying narrative. There’s a sense of isolation to each little section in ED, each one working nicely enough, but I wager that if Azzopardi were to tackle the work now it would flow far more smoothly.
Azzopardi’s artwork, extensively reworked for this collection, still shows some signs of roughness in the earlier strips. Indeed, I think part one is ceratinly untouched – rough and scratchy lines dominate the strip, certainly not the clean rounded style it very swiftly moves into. These smooth confident strokes, the more rounded style I mentioned before are a huge improvement and very much the customarily easy on the eye and well-structured work I’ve come to expect from Azzopardi. There’s even chance, with the Cornwall strip, to experiment with page layout and flow to great effect.
Read ED and I’m sure you’ll find something of yourself in there. But I wanted a little more than a series of disconnected, enjoyable in isolation, but not really gelling as a whole, strips from ED. There’s enjoyment to be had here for certain, but not enough. Or maybe I’m just getting overly critical with old age and encroaching senility?