Sean Azzopardi really doesn’t understand the idea behind a sketchbook entry. Isn’t it meant to be sketchy? Or loose in some way? But his series of diary/sketchbook comics that I’ve talked about over the last few years completely break away from the whole sketchy thing. There’s detailed artwork in them, solid and thought-provoking narrative, repeating characters and themes, the works.
And here, underneath that gorgeously wintery travelling cover, is another one, this time more complicated and narrative driven than anything Azzopardi’s done before. Sketchbook and diary work? I don’t think so Sean. What we actually have here is something that transcends Sean’s previous work. Sure, the art is as nice as last time, but lets concentrate on the mood of the narrative.
What really marks this out as a move into unknown territories, as already pointed out by fellow Azzopardi fan Matt Badham, are the experiments with non-linear narrative we begin to see; again not your traditional diary or sketchbook sort of thing, and all the better for it.
This is more free-ranging, a comic reflecting a thought process, memory firing off in all directions, today, last week, 31 years ago, all at once it seems. In here you’re see Azzopardi fall back on his ‘tales of comics UK’ default only occasionally, instead focusing on memory, past lives, friends unseen for years, revisiting old haunts, familial remembrance. It’s complex, wide-ranging stuff.
I was trying to pick and choose a little art to illustrate this, but in the end I kept coming back to these two consecutive pages, a perfect illustration of the narrative flow and artistic style of Same Day Return:
There’s something unnerving here, the whole storyline gets more complicated and involving, an unsettling feeling, of displacement, of Azzopardi reflecting, regretting, moving on, memory and confusion, uncertainty and ennui. It’s not an easy light read at all when properly considered, and you’ll come out the other end of it wondering, just like Azzopardi, when it’s all going to be processed, when the world is going to slow enough to allow us all to take everything in. But no, just like Azzopardi shows at the end, the only solution is to keep going, accept, move on, enjoy for what it is.
Azzoprdi promises his work post this is cheerier, but here there’s a darkness, a sense of fracture, reflected quite perfectly in Azzopardi’s fractured narrative, messing around with time shifting, jumping back and forth, relying on the skills of the artist to provide the visual clues needed and the skills of the reader to pick them up each time. There are moments it doesn’t quite take, where there’s a moment or two of uncertainty about what Azzopardi is trying to show, but overall it works, and works very well.