1. Another review, or set of notes, this time on Backyard by Sam Alden. Order a print copy here, or read it online here.
    - I like the format. This comic is nearly square and quite small at 4” x 5”. 26 pages. I think the size of the comic matches the size/scope of the story. A sparse, focused format for a sparse, focused comic.
    - Sam wisely doesn’t try to fit too many panels on these small pages. Two, or sometimes three panels per page at most. This also fits nicely with the narrative sparsity mentioned above. 
    - I like the storytelling structure. Backyard unfolds over a series of short scenes, which Darryl Ayo breaks down quite thoroughly in his piece on this comic — so I won’t do so here. I will note, though, that each scene gets a lot across in a limited amount of space. Again, this is a sparse work. The implied jumps in time between scenes recalls the well-known ability of the Hernandez Brothers to jump between scenes from page to page and panel to panel. I remember Sam talked about this a bit in his Inkstuds interview, so I wonder if it was a conscious influence here. Still, the effect is a bit different from a Los Bros comic given both the 2-3 panel pages (as opposed to Jaime and Gilbert’s 6, 8, 9 panels) and the fact that the scene changes always occur between spreads.
    - In other words, the scene only changes as you turn the page. That’s a nice trick in that it accentuates the sense of time having passed.   
    - This could be very off base, but it seems to me that Sam used Hawaii 1997 — a comic drawn at a very small size and thus necessarily quite rough and loose — to push himself towards the style used in Backyard, which is looser and more pared down than much of his other work. I find it interesting that someone could actively push themselves towards a stylistic shift in that manner and that they would do so fairly publically — I think Hawaii 1997 has a million Tumblr notes at this point? Not to say it isn’t a good comic, because I like it a lot. Just visually much rougher than Backyard, which I guess I would say has a roughness that is more polished, focused, and purposeful.
    - Finally, I like that this comic was published by Sonatina Comics. I think Sonatina proprietor Scott Longo has good taste, so I hope he publishes more solo comics in the future. Hooray for micropublishers.
     
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