Old Man Winter and Other Sordid Tales is a Xeric award-winning collection of tales from Brooklynite J.T. Yost. The titular story opens with a one-page image of a gnomish man sleeping on one side of a double bed, under a sketchy wedding photograph, surrounded by clutter in a dawning light. The text reads ”the old man is always cold,” which succinctly sums up the loneliness of old age. The rest of the story follows the old man through selected moments of his routine, including a pitch-perfect conversation with a frustrated daughter who is trying to get him ready to move, presumably to a nursing home. Though the story includes a few scenes that take place in his absence, the old man’s patient manner soaks it, and even renders his somewhat cartoonish look dignified. In fact, his small round figure signals that he is living in a different world from the other characters, one where the past is very, very close. The final drawing of the story sums up the sadness, quiet and inevitability of death just as nicely as the opening drawing foreshadows it.
“Logging Sanjay” is atmospheric autobio that combines two pillars of the genre: guilt and humor. Two friends decide to freak out a third, and up the ante with each attack. The victim’s family mistakes the disjointed efforts of the boys to be threats, and I like that you can sense that the author’s younger self thinks that his is pretty cool, despite the fact that it made his friend’s life kina fucked up for awhile. Yost captures the reality of a mundane topic–stupid things kids do—and uses detail to put us in the moment.
The final three stories, “All Is Forgiven,” “Roadtrip,” and “Running Away With the Circus/Running Away From the Circus,” focus on cruelty to animals and question how we can ignore suffering in beings so much like ourselves. “All Is Forgiven” is the best, and the panel that makes it so shows a cat with something mechanical glued to its head (presumably from experimentation) licking the hand of the man who inflicted the gash when he is crying over a lost relationship. Balancing preachy and poignant in “issue” comics is difficult and Yost pulls it off better than most.
Old Man Winter and Other Sordid Tales is another example of why the Xeric folks’ seal of approval actually means something to me, unlike other awards which shall remain nameless.
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