By Martin Conaghan and Simon Mackie
A short series of recollections of childhood and more from writer Martin Conaghan (author of the excellent Burke & Hare) and artist Simon Mackie.
Now, admittedly there’s one huge exception in Harvey Pekar, but generally, having a writer entrusting an artist to deliver autobiog can be tricky. However, right from the start, Conaghan and Mackie set out their stall really well, including an intro page serving as a perfect way of summarising the comic, all coming together after Conaghan receives Art Spiegelman’s Maus for his 40th birthday:
This all starts really strongly, the perils of working night-shifts followed by a look at what being a modern Catholic entails – less a religion, more a lifestyle choice is Conaghan’s interesting conclusion. And the whole comic continues in this vein; colourful family members, neighbourhood characters remembered from growing up, getting into trouble, playing out with mates, first girlfriends it’s all very down to earth and a lot of fun.
And as for funny, well, three strips in we get this bit of brilliance….
Fantastic page of ever more involving comedy, hitting us with the gag, and then hitting us again, and again, and again, funnier each time the kids ask something daft. Great dialogue, matched by Mackie’s careering van, panels bending to match the motion, neatly done, simple and so effective.
So that’s the comedy sorted, and the slice of life sorted, and there’s an awful lot similar to enjoy in Reflections.
But there are a few problems, artistically and narratively. For a start, there’s the tendency to load a page with just too much, with just not enough structure on the wordy page to guide the eye automatically, meaning the words get a little lost amongst the imagery. Writer’s fault? Artist’s fault? maybe a bit of both?
But more importantly than that, there’s also a few times when it all feels a little forced, a little distanced from source to reader, to really make it work. There’s a sense of reportage rather than emotional involvement, reading a news story rather than sharing a life.
The whole thing came to a head with the one really affecting and strangely moving page; 9/11 where Conaghan captures all the fear and humanity so simply, detailing the day, and his need to return home to wife and unborn child. There’s even a Robbie Coltrane gag thrown in as an extra. The thing is, this page works so well that it actually highlights the problems of the other strips that wouldn’t have been quite so obvious had this one not nailed the emotions quite so well.
But overall, despite those snags, this is positive, sweet where it needs to be, and whether it’s out and out laughs or a more gentle humour that tickles your fancy, you’ll find both here. Not perfect, but good, very good indeed.