1. On Lose #2-4

    So I read issues 2 through 4 of Michael DeForge’s series Lose recently. For the first time! Anyways, I liked the comics and I thought I would jot down a few thoughts about them here.

    • These comics work great as objects. The little ephemera pieces, the different cover stocks for each issue, the ‘about the author’ gags, etc. all really clicked for me. Although to be fair I am someone who has been irrationally obsessed with pamphlet comics of late.
    • I read all three issues in one sitting, and the improvement from one to the next is very noticeable. Even though these comics represent only part of DeForge’s output (Maybe even a minority? It would be interesting if that were true), I think it’s very impressive that he is improving so substantially year to year. On the other hand, perhaps because I read all three issues at once, I was underwhelmed by issues 2 and 3. They were good, but not compelling in the way that I imagined they might be from reading reviews, or in the way that I thought issue 4 was.
    • I liked issue 4 a lot, in other words. It has the best drawing as well. DeForge is a really good drawer — that’s an obvious point, but an important one. “Somebody I Know” was my favorite story in issue 4, but “Canadian Royalty” had the best drawings.
    • DeForge does have a few weaknesses that stood out to me in these comics. First, I think he sometimes is over-reliant on narration. Almost all of the stories in Lose have some kind of narration, and I think there are a few cases where it becomes a crutch. He also suffers slightly from a classic alt-comics problem: some of his stories ‘end’ more than they conclude. Now, this isn’t a weakness in and of itself. I love some of the Adrian Tomine stories that were often criticized for this supposed fault. However, it’s a difficult thing to pull off that kind of abrupt conclusion, and at least for me DeForge doesn’t always nail the landing. “The Sixties” in issue 4 is one example of this. Maybe I’ll reread the story so that I can articulate a little more clearly what didn’t work for me, but I just didn’t find the ending satisfying in a basic narrative sense. It seemed like it was building towards something, but then jumped very suddenly and without real explanation to those final two images. 
    • The shared world of DeForge’s comics that is beginning to emerge is really interesting. I liked what the Comic Books Are Burning in Hell boyz said about this. This, as well as the way DeForge is putting out stand alone stories about his Leather Space Man character in a million different formats but with a loose chronology and overarching plot in mind, points towards an idea that also came through for me quite clearly in issue 4…
    • I would argue that DeForge is interested in the way that separate, distinct parts combine to make a whole. Not as a thematic concern, necessarily, but in terms of how he constructs and presents his comics. There are no superficial connections between the different stories in Lose 4, for instance, but thematic and even narrative connections are quite clear. This is, after all, “The Fashion Issue.” Both “Somebody I Know” and “Canadian Royalty” clearly fit under that umbrella, and I would argue that “The Sixties,” with its obvious commentary on appearance, individuality, etc. is also discussing “fashion.” Even the trick where the one page break up scene (which, by the way, is perhaps the same couple from the very first page) before the title page of “Somebody I Know” works as a single page, but then folds back into the main story, is an example of this phenomenon. This seems to me like a logical evolution of the original one person anthologies which seem to be a big inspiration for DeForge and many other younger cartoonists (including me!) I don’t think there were any real thematic connections between the stories in an issue of, say, Eightball, beyond the way that they were indicative of Clowes’ interests as an artist in general. The work certainly didn’t seem to be self-curated/edited in the way that Lose 4 evidently is. This might be a bit of a stretch, but I think you can even call the emerging ‘DeForge Universe’ an example of that curational instinct writ large. Interesting stuff. I look forward to reading Lose 5 soon.
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