The first 8 pages of Smoo issue 5 practically sum up everything I love in Moreton’s work, and why it impresses me so:
Cornwall. A coastal town, details, features, roads, railings, grass, more roads, more railings, houses, waves gently washing ashore, landscape, a curve of another road, and another, and another. From coast to countryside, always away….
But it loses so much in my translation from image to word, and Moreton’s imagery creates pages of sheer, desolate, despairing beauty as we drift through the coastal environment, wordless save for a line or two, but full of meaning nonetheless.
Here’s the art to the final page of the 8-page mini story, you should probably stop now if this doesn’t fill your heart and soul with a desperate joy.
I’ve talked before of the fascination I have for Moreton’s work, the enjoyment of the simplicity of what he does, my delight as he refines and abstracts his work, and how each subsequent issue surprises me with the manner of his reductive techniques.
I’ve seen and enjoyed several styles thus far; the abstract drift of something like the Escapologist, the relative solidity and form of his earlier Smoo Comics, the loose pencils of more recent work.
Here we have something that casually combines all three styles in several short pieces, and at times the clash can shift the mood too quickly, break a reverie. But it’s also quite fitting, as Smoo 5 is a very personal reflection on a difficult time in Moreton’s life, and in some ways the shifting of styles merely accentuates the despair, the dislocation of his shifting mental state at the time.
After issue 4’s return to teenage life in Marlow, the retrospective meditations turn to Falmouth, Cornwall, and Moreton as a 21-year old student making his way, lonely, alone, depressed. That initial drifting journey from seafront to potential coastal escape road, leads to a more figurative Moreton, autobiographical and direct, wandering aimlessly through the dismal, brutalist university buildings, a lost man.
In between these more reflective tales we have strange, bizarre interludes, almost too loud, imposing upon the developing mood; spoken word historical scenes, bizarre ornithology with just unfamiliar species (Startlings, The Drunklin et al), three beautiful pages of fishermen simple fishing, a nightswimming memory.
And then we get to the end. I Didn’t Know is Moreton at his most minimal, simple shapes and figures in pencil to start with, degrading as the pages turn, as Moreton drifts, questioning, slightly unreal, degrading himself, a personality dismantling in print. There are subtle callbacks to the first story, detailed landscape features turned to the most minimal of marks. It’s evocative, it’s beautiful, thoughtful beyond the page count, interesting beyond its end.
Frankly, I’m running out of ways to praise Moreton for what he’s doing. His development in the last couple of years has been a joy to behold. It’s a pleasure to receive each new work, knowing I’ll spend some time simply taking in the imagery he so effectively evokes within.
You can (and frankly you should) buy Moreton’s comics, including this fifth issue of Smoo Comics from Moreton’s webstore.