Ceej Says… Crossing Borders: Travels in Thailand & Cambodia


Publisher: Rocketpuppy Press
Writer/Artist: Moogs Kewell
Release Date: 1st July 2014

I may have mentioned this before a few times, but any time I end up with an ‘autobiographical’ comic sitting on the top of my review pile, I’ll fully admit to a sense of creeping dread washing over me. All too often, these kinds of things can become dull, self-indulgent and ultimately a bit meaningless to anyone other than the creator themselves. However, given how much I rather enjoyed Moogs Kewell’s double SICBA Award-winning Big in Japan, I can safely say that my familiar sense of impending doom was mercifully absent as I sat down to read her latest offering, Crossing Borders.

Sticking to largely the same format as Big in Japan, Crossing Borders serves an illustrated travelogue chronicling Moogs’ recent holiday to Thailand and Cambodia with her partner Matt.  Much like being forced to sit through albums of other people’s holiday photographs, there’s always a high risk with these kind of projects that it become a boring ordeal; something to be smiled and nodded through as we anxiously plan our escape. However, Moogs clearly has a great eye for the kind of humorous details that would otherwise go unnoticed, and takes great pleasure in cramming every inch of page space with sketches, doodles and interesting informational tidbits, making the whole thing a lively, energetic and utterly intriguing affair – particularly to a non-traveller like myself.

Moogs also handles the artistic duties here, providing the same blend of goofy caricatures and realistic landscapes and landmarks that made Big in Japan such a visual treat. And while following some of the page layouts can occasionally cause confusion without the usual ‘boxes’ to guide our eye, the book still contains some fantastic visual flourishes along the way – with a terrific recreation of Moogs and Matt on their second anniversary being a great example of this.

So far so impressive. The formula used in Big in Japan was clearly a winner (literally), so it makes sense that Moogs would use a similar approach here. However, there are two key areas where Crossing Borders significantly improves upon its predecessor. Firstly, the colours. The lovely, lovely pencil-shaded colours. As strong as the illustrations were in Big in Japan, it sometimes felt like there was something missing, almost like we were looking at a black and white photograph of a flower garden. Well, that shortcoming has been remedied impressively here with some eye-catching yet understated colour work. And secondly, while Big in Japan was an interesting – if a little superficial – look at the Japanese culture, Crossing Borders digs far deeper into the widespread social and economic problems that plague Cambodia, giving the book the additional resonance and sincerity that Big in Japan may have been lacking.

The main criticism I’d have to lay on Crossing Borders is that – with the best will in the world – it’s not going to appeal to everyone. A lot of people buy comics for exciting stories and dynamic characters, and in those respects, an illustrated travelogue is unlikely to really appeal to them. However, I’d urge those of you who may be on the fence about Crossing Borders to at least give it a try. There’s a lot more to comics then capes and cowls, and there’s definitely a lot of things to like about this quirky, interesting and surprisingly powerful little book.

Crossing Borders will make its debut at Glasgow Comic Con 2014 on the 5th and 6th of July, although the official launch party is being held tonight at the Saramago bar off Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow.

You can also keep up to date on the latest news regarding this title via the Rocketpuppy Facebook page.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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