Beek's Books - an ongoing collection of comic book reviews
  Buddha on the Road (Aeon)
issue #1
by Colin Upton
Rating: good, Content: [beyond genre]

Another "Beek's Briefs" here, wherein I write up a single issue of an ongoing series that just plain impressed me, rather than going for the "big picture" by waiting and reviewing several issues at once.

 I'm not really familiar with Colin Upton's previous work; despite the infamy of Colin Upton's Big Black Thing, the only other work of his I have is an issue he did of XXXenophile Presents, which was... um, interesting. Buddha on the Road is a reworking of Upton's aborted mini-comic of the same name. This time around, it's the story of Norman, a one-time art-punk, just finished with a stint in the Canadian Army, in which he spent a tour of duty in the former Yugoslavia. Now he's returning home to Vancouver.

 He finds that many things have changed in the past decade, and that some things have not. Judging by the reactions of his old friends, acquaintances, and enemies, the same is true of Norman. No longer a juvenile graffiti rebel, he's now a veteran... not in the flag-waving, jingoist WWII/Desert Storm sense; not in the freaked-out, victim Vietnam sense; but in the sense of "one who's been through some bad experiences, and lived to learn something from it".

 The scenes in which Norman confronts or is confronted by various folks, upon his arrival at an old friend's art gallery show, are very effective. Perhaps it's the company I sometimes keep, or my own sociopolitical idealism, but I can hear these conversations taking place. And when Norman looses his cool in response to some thoughtlessly naive remarks... I can understand - and feel - his frustration.

 Oh, I should comment on the art, which works well. Upton uses a somewhat stylised realist approach, giving the characters simplified, moderately exaggerated features to make them easily recognisable, but still serious. While it's the dialog that carries the story, the art supports it effectively.

 It's pretty clear that Upton intends to deal in some way with religious issues in this series, so if that makes you uncomfortable... you probably ought to read it. {grin} At first it's just stuff like the opening scene with the bright-eyed modern-hymn-singers on the bus, but toward the end of the book it shows signs of getting a bit scary... and even surreal. Or maybe not. Some of the answers lie in Buddha on the Road #2, which arrived in stores in early December 1996.

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