Mature readers (16+)
Sulk is the new one-man anthology from cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, who is known for his idiosyncratic autobiographical comix. Each volume of Sulk, which is published in a pocket-sized format (4.75” x 6.5”), will feature Jeffrey Brown’s charming and often surreal short stories.
Sulk (Vol. 2): Deadly Awesome is Brown’s cartoon depiction of the world of mixed martial arts. Using a no-holds-barred cage fight to explore the nature of violence, Brown depicts a fictional fight match in the S.C.F.C.L. (Superior Cage Fighting Championship League). Aging veteran fighter and former middleweight champ, Haruki Rabasaku, faces off in an open-weight match against the young powerhouse and light heavyweight champion, Eldark Garprub. Raining punches and kicks and engaging in ironclad grappling, Rabasaku and Eldark stage a showdown for the ages.
“With furious strikes and technical submission holds, this story will thrill newbies as well as hardcore fans of ultimate fighting!” declares the press release publisher Top Shelf Productions sent with Sulk review copies. I’ll grudgingly agree with that declaration. As one who thinks M.M.A. (mixed martial arts) and ultimate fighting are merely society’s way of providing gainful employment for morons – especially the ones who are usually brawling their way to assault charges anyway, I should hate this mini-graphic novel, but I like it. When praising the technical prowess of the fighters depicted here, the credit obviously goes to Jeffrey Brown, whose work I usually find myself liking.
Someone could read the contents and by the execution of the graphic narrative mistakenly view Deadly Awesome as mocking cage fighting, and Brown does indeed offer some gentle spoofing of the sport. But no artist is going to put the kind of attention to detail that Brown does here just to parody something he doesn’t like. Brown’s visual storytelling does something that comics do well – break down the human body in motion to the individual moments that capture the beauty of raw power. Every panel that depicts the fight displays a skill at cartooning human anatomy and of representing two bodies engaged in hand-to-hand combat that is impressive. Brown’s art and storytelling gives the fight a sense of verisimilitude. I never knew that he had this kind of work in him.
The next time I find myself “accidentally” watching M.M.A, I’ll have Jeffrey Brown’s Deadly Awesome to thank for making me appreciate the fighters and their art.