Review: Thoughts on a Winter MorningA comic review article by: Steve Morris
MonkeyBrain have proven to be impossible to nail down as a publisher. When it looks like you can finally start to grasp their niche, their corner of comics, Kurt Busiek republishes a short autobiographical story and you're back with your pack of straws again, trying to clutch them as you desperately try to complete a single full metaphor within the space of a sentence. Thoughts on a Winter Morning is not a new comic, as mentioned, but a reprinting of a story written several years ago, drawn by Steve Lieber.
The comic reads like a short diary entry -- which was, in fact, the essence of Busiek's original intent for the story. He wrote it down as a piece, but had no intentions to share it until asked by a publisher if he had any short stories he'd like to share. Thoughts on a Winter Morning is a lovely piece of writing, crisp and simple, and with a sense of nostalgia which feels wistful, rather than forced. Simply put, this is Busiek recalling his childhood, and then relating his experiences of winter with those that his newborn child would one day experience herself. As text, it's an evocative, delicate story which captures an idea perfectly. Crystallised, I suppose one could say, like a snowflake. But that'd be far too on-the-nose.
When Steve Lieber draws the comic, however, the text morphs into something completely different. I have very little experience with autobiography in comics, myself, but as soon as you see panel-sized Kurt Busiek walking through snow, there's a little voice in the back of the mind which squeals, "Hey! That's Kurt Busiek!" That moment of familiarity is what elevates comics above novels, really. Reading the piece, you turn things to your own idea of how this would have looked. But when Lieber carefully depicts every single element of Busiek's world on that day, you're forced out of laziness and into accepting somebody else's story. Without the medium, this would be a story people read and move on from. But when you're trapped with several pages of visual cue, you have to not only see Busiek's story from a new perspective, but understand it.
While the story is a simple, warm story about a very cold part of the year and the never-ending supply of things kids can do with a giant rock, it also displays Busiek's assured knowledge of the medium. This is a story which explains how comics are a medium which invites readers into a world, rather than leaves them stranded on the outside of the pages.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.