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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Why you need to read: Seeds by Ross Mackintosh

Caught up in the hype of the Avengers movie and the DC New 52, it's easy to forget that comic books are first and foremost about people. They are about how we react to situations, how we relate to each other and how we deal with tragedy. It is for this reason that I have taken the time to sit here and write a review of Ross Mackintosh's brilliant book Seeds published by Com.X.

I had picked up this book in shops a couple of times and put it back, mainly because it was all black and white and mostly line drawings. It lacked the same pizazz and sparkle of my usual sci-fi and superhero fare. I bought a copy from the Com.X stand at the Melksham Comic-Con 2012, as I had a friendly chat with Eddie Deighton of Com.X and I always like to support UK creators and publishers. I was foolish to have waited so long to buy this book.

To summarise, Seeds is a story about Ross (Mackintosh) coming to terms with his Dad's diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer which has spread to his lungs, and has not long left to live. This is obviously a very personal and sensitive subject for Ross and for many of his readers but Mackintosh handles it with such charm, grace and humour that to describe it as bitter-sweet does not begin to cover it. Indeed, it is difficult for me to put into words how this book made me feel as my father has also recently been diagnosed with very serious cancer. At times it was difficult for me to see the pages through the tears, but I did not and could not put down the book until I had reached the final page.

The key to the level of intimacy that you feel with Ross and with his family throughout the book is the “snapshot” images. As everyone knows when tragedy presents itself, we remember the stupidest and tiniest of details and Mackintosh is well aware of this. Clever touches like a hand pumping some sanitiser from a dispenser – signifying a hospital visit to anyone who's had to visit loved ones; a panel showing Ross' feet next to his dad's, his dad in socks and Ross in shoes signifying the young and the old and the bond between father and son; the disappearance of the line of the mouth when an awkward silence passes over; it is these little panels which really tug at the heartstrings.

It is the mark of a great comic book storyteller that the art does not get in the way of the story. Whilst at first glance the artwork seems to be basic, the nuances of facial expression and body posture communicate more than full-colour photo-realistic artwork ever could. It is very fitting for the book to be drawn this way as anything else would seem gaudy and insensitive. Mackintosh is obviously aware that other people will be experiencing similar situations and his understated approach to the artwork and the writing has such a strong feeling of truth to it that the reader will find themselves feeling like they have lost a friend by the end of the book.

That said, this book will help many men, women, fathers, sons, daughters, wives, mothers and husbands to come to terms with their own situations. The foreword from two doctors states exactly that; “Seeing how Ross felt about his father's death will help others in the same situation.” 'Nuff Said.