CARICATURE is a showcase of Clowes' recent short works and, not to dismiss any of the material he'd generated previously, shows a great leap forward for both Clowes himself and comics in general. These shorts, among them "Like a Weed, Joe", "Black Nylon", "Gynecology", and the title story exhibit an almost Carver-esque mapping of the dreamlike and downtrodden, the sad and mournful. The giggly, tittering absurdity of earlier Eightball shorts is nearly gone as Clowes begins plumbing the depths of just how much the medium is capable of, and how much he can bring to the table. Are the stories here all successful? Not necessarily, but the attempts Clowes makes both lay the groundwork for the sublime David Boring (which is seemingly sketched out between both "Gynecology" and "Black Nylon") and exude a confidence and control as a storyteller.
Clowes' artwork takes great strides here as well. Stepping away more and more from the neo-kitsch of his earlier works, CARICATURE is a wonderful portfolio of Clowes the Artist, also - a facet of his talent too-often ignored or overpowered by his narrative skill.
Books like CARICATURE are what we talk about when we talk about comics as literature.
Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.