By Joe Decie
A debut comic from Joe Decie and the first release from the Blank Slate Chalk Marks imprint. And both impress greatly.
First a word about the format; there’s a note inside the front cover acknowledging the stylistic debt the Chalk Marks series owes to Fantagraphics Ignatz series. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. But if you’re going to nick a format, this is a gorgeous one to pick; A4, 40 pages, quality paper stock, lovingly wrapped in a satisfyingly weighty proper dustjacket cover. This is classy presentation.
Now, onto the content. You’d not believe this was Joe Decie’s first print collection if you weren’t told. He’s featured before on Top Shelf’s webcomic site, but that was no preparation for just how satisfying his work is, collected together and presented so well.
It’s everything an accomplished debut should be. Supremely confident, fully formed, nothing is wasted, there’s barely a wrong line or misstep in storytelling anywhere.
Although, in truth, this isn’t really a story collection. This is more a collection of ideas, of recollections, of moments, events in Decie’s young life. And as such, everything you need to know about The Accidental Salad can probably be seen from the few examples of pages I’ll show you here, in page after page of beautiful ink washed panels that sit so easily upon the eye. If these pages resonate, if you enjoy them as much as I did, then you’ll really enjoy the book.
Decie puts forth his ideas, his snapshots of life, and the response to them is a cumulative one. Each strip, rarely longer than a page, often merely a few panels, sometimes less, speaks to some isolated moment, makes an observation, gives a twist, and swiftly moves on to the next, completely unrelated event.
Yet the thematic link, the sense of wonder, of interest in anything and everything that crosses Decie’s mind, creates a narrative that almost flows despite itself. The Accidental Salad should, by it’s very nature, be a stuttering, fragmented read, yet it flows practically seamlessly to create a wonderfully warm book full of absurdity, full of wry humour, a gentle observational style that you can’t help but compare to a mellow Eddie Campbell.
In the 40 pages you’ll meet a host of the everyday, all viewed from the strangely off-kilter lens of Decie’s worldview. The Accidental Salad manages to be both funny and wistful, incisive and almost surreal at times as Decie leads us on a wonderful trip through his world, replete with a near childlike appreciation of the wonders off everyday life. An superb debut.