One day, Derek Kirk Kim just might produce something akin to a masterpiece. And while SAME DIFFERENCE AND OTHER STORIES may not be it, all the landmarks that point towards that kind of achievement are present in its pages. One longish story followed by several shorts, Kim's debut book spans in style from Clowes to Kurtzman, from the observational to the outrageous, in this collection of narrative shorts, autobiographical bits, and pure vulgar comics nonsense.
The eponymous centerpiece of SAME DIFFERENCE starts in a sweetly clumsy way: friends tell one another stories in a familiar My So-Called Life by way of Coupland's Generation X manner, a naturalistic hipster narrative that, while done well enough, feels shopworn in spite of what's actually being said. As the story and the characters embark on a half-hearted road trip to stalk a lovesick, letter-writing goon, Kim digs down into his craft and characters, finding beautiful little moments and beautiful little ways to give them to his readers. As he relies less and less on his prose and allows the visual narrative to unfurl, SAME DIFFERENCE grows as it goes and as Kim discovers new technique and new confidence (which makes sense, as according to Kim the story was serialized online over the span of three years). What begins as a routine post-collegiate meander develops, by story's end, into a quiet, unexpected delight.
Refreshing, often eloquent, and at times brushing against the sublime, SAME DIFFERENCE AND OTHER STORIES quietly declares the presence of a cartoonist we'll one day accuse of selling out as we lament the days when he made books just like this one. For the time being, this is a fine start.
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.