Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Review: Trains Are … Mint

Trains Are … Mint issue 1, by Oliver East, Rolling Stock Press, 2006, 36 pages of strip, £4.99

Trains Are … Mint issue 2, by Oliver East, Rolling Stock Press, 2006, 36 pages of strip, £4.99

Enough with the boffo yuks. No more flying people in tights for now, or men with guns, or car chases. Here instead is an illustrated account of a walking tour of local railway stations in Northern England.

No, wait, come back!

This small press comic is worth a look, if you are in a certain mood. There’s a third issue, too, but I haven’t seen that yet.

Oliver East’s Trains Are … Mint is an odd fish. For one thing, there are no trains, mint or otherwise. (“Mint” is a term of approbation, by the way.) Instead, East shows us his path as he walks from one small railway station to another. There’s no story as such, just a sort of illustrated diary. Nothing much happens, and though East is sometimes favourably impressed by the dull suburban stations he visits, it is hard for the reader to feel the same.

The artwork is sketchy and naïf, finished, I think, in marker pen and watercolour. Almost everything shown is urban landscape. People, when encountered, are simplified down, sometimes shown only as their hollowed out clothes. The lettering approximates to handwriting.

Colour, pacing and use of space all build up a sense of drizzly Sunday melancholia. There is an acuteness of observation, and an occasional asperity of humour, that lends these two comics a very specific feeling of place and culture.

Sometimes, on a grey day, you just want to sit and watch the raindrops trickle down the window, drinking milky tea and eating a slice of battenburg cake. This is a comic for those times.

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