The Onion A.V. Club praises A SINGLE MATCH

Graphic Novels & Art-Comics—late March 2011

The AV Club    |    Noel Murray    |    March 28, 2011

The tone and content is very different from Freeway, but Oji Suzuki’s short-story collection A Single Match (D&Q) is just as concerned with capturing the way human consciousness drifts from specific remembrances to outright reveries. Even the first image in A Single Match, from the story “Color Of Rain,” is both direct and dreamlike: A giant hand reaches down from the sky, just above a train car that’s on its way to a station where a little boy is waiting. Did the hand set the car down? Is it about to lift the car? Is the boy dreaming the hand? And why, as he’s lying in bed with a fever, does the boy insist to his grandmother that he saw his brother on the train, when he has no brother?

“Color Of Rain” sets the tone for A Single Match, a set of stories about life’s little mysteries. Suzuki’s characters frequently tell stories about people they knew, such as the madwoman who roamed the streets turning out street-lamps, or places they’ve been, such as a seaside town suffused with dampness. And sometimes those stories take a turn for the surreal. Suzuki uses children as protagonists often, perhaps because in the mind of a child, it’s not so unusual for Ultraman to appear and teach a lesson about bedwetting, or for a bird-driven rocketship-bus to arrive to defuse an embarrassing situation.

Suzuki doesn’t treat the wilder flights of fancy in his stories as that big of a deal. They’re pitched at the same level as the more realistic milieu of “World Colored Pants,” an elliptical tale of sexual awakening and an uneasy friendship, and “Crystal Thought,” a short anecdote about a son pestering his dad to buy him a radio the family can’t afford. Suzuki’s artwork alternates between conventional cartooning and panels that look more like standalone portraits, just as his text varies straight-ahead dialogue and free-floating poetic phrases. The effect is striking—a sketch of the woes and wonders of everyday life that makes room for those moments when we zone out.

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