In Review: Garbage Night by Jen Lee

Garbage Night by Jen LeeCreated by Jen Lee
Full colour, £12.99
Published by NoBrow

The Story: In a barren and ransacked backyard, a dog called Simon lives with his two best friends: a raccoon and a deer. They spend their days looting a desolate supermarket, waiting for the return of the hallowed “Garbage Night” – and week after week, the bins remain empty.

But rumour has it, there’s a nearby town where humans still live. The trio join up with Barnaby, a mysterious stranger, and set off into the unknown…

Juvenile animals struggle to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship.

Garbage Night by Jen Lee

“It’s fun though, right? …. A world without walls, just doors?”

The Review: Playing with context and preconceptions is something that always makes me sit up and pay attention. Garbage Night, along with creator Jen Lee’s previous story in the same setting, Vacancy, are tales that move you out of your comfort zone. She adeptly mixes the anthropomorphic with the (seeming) end of the world.

(A small world nonetheless, but one that seems familiar yet also scarily ephemeral).

As a lover of NoBrow’s ever-growing and developing back catalogue I would hazard a guess that this is a series that’s beginning to form a significant addition to their catalogue.

Garbage Night art by Jen Lee

Garbage Night is a no holds barred allegory for the breakdown of modern society – a breakdown that we see on the news and internet on a daily (and ever accelerating) basis. Jen shifts our ragged and ever surviving/ commuting/driving/ working overtime/ finding solace in a sandwich in the park personalities into those of urban savvy animals, scurrying about in the rubbish bins of the more fortunate, looking for food.

It is these mirrors that have expertly crafted moments of character and deftly crafted action sequences. Action that is sought from truely desperate circumstances and not some set up car chase or bar fight that one might see elsewhere.

Garbage Night art by Jen Lee

Garbage Night is also bleakly haunting. It echoes at times with too much reality. You worry that the animal “stars” of this story will not survive the walk across a landscape that at first glance seems banal but has hidden moments of danger. It is this aspect of the tale that changes what could have been a fluffy anthropomorphic story into one that clatters along and you have to reach the end to see what happens.

This time out, Jen also throws a spanner into the works and introduces a new and crafty friend into the circle. You wonder how this will effect these characters and if Barnaby (a ragged and dangerous looking dog) will affect their dynamic. This new character further develops the tension and plays on our feelings of not wanting this group to split up or fall out.

The language of the story is a cross between The Lord of the Flies/ The Walking Dead desperation and those of the more innocent  tales of, for example, children playing on the slide in the park. It moves the characters along with real skill and the creator knows when to slow down and speed up in each sequence. Glances are cast between friends and emotion is snatched out of the story and sent to the reader seamlessly. Hope is rare, but present enough to make you believe the motivations.

A comic that can be read on may levels, I highly recommend it.

Vacancy by Jen Lee

This volume also features the previous story Vacancy, which was released under NoBrow’s 17×23 series.

Jen Lee Promotional artJen Lee was born in Manhattan but grew up in a beach town in Florida. She grew up mimicing the cartoons she was watching and copying them from frame to frame. She jumped from High School to The School of Visual Arts in New York to study comics, graphic design and writing. She then flirted with a career in animal psychology before landing a job as a graphic designer in a software company.

She now works freelance for Boom! Studios and the Nickelodeon Channel. Vacancy for NoBrow Press was her first published work.

• Jen Lee is on Tumblr here and you can also support her Thunderpaw on Patreon here or follow her on Twitter @repoghost

• Find out more about this publisher at www.nobrow.net or follow them on Twitter @NobbrowPress

Many thanks for reading.

Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer - his hips don't lie.



Categories: British Comics

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