Writer/Artist: Jack Fallows
Release Date: 15th November 2014 (Thought Bubble)
A collection of short strips, doodles and emotional outpourings, Axolotl by Jack “Jerk Face” Fallows blends the fictional with the real, creating an intimate look at his own insecurities and self-esteem that is likely to divide readers somewhat. In a lot of ways, Axolotl almost feels almost like reading someone else’s diary at times, so honest and unfiltered is the majority of its subject matter. The book opens with a series of brutally uncomplimentary testimonials from former girlfriends by way of an introduction to Fallows, a decision which calmly and assuredly sets the tone for rest of the collection.
With strips entitled “What the fuck is wrong with me?” and “Slut Heart – The Asexual Diary of a Hopeless Romantic”, it’s fairly obvious that this isn’t intended as a laugh riot or an upbeat joke-fest. At the same time however, there is an undeniably understated charm in Fallows’ self-effacing representation of himself, and a genuinely engaging quality to the unflinching honesty he displays while sharing his own doubts and insecurities. He also avoids things becoming too bleak, thankfully, making sure to throw in a few lighter moments along the way such as his almost giddy recollection of his recent trip to Glasgow – featuring a glorious cameo from a certain SICBA-dominating double-act.
In a lot of ways, this is a pretty difficult title for me to review. So thin is the line between fiction and reality here that to review the content of the stories would be almost like reviewing Fallows as a person – something I’m ill-equipped to do. What I can critique however is his artistic approach; an intriguing blend of cartoony innocence and pencil-shaded surrealism that draws you into his words and keeps the book constantly flowing forwards. This is also a collection which contains some beautifully poignant moments along the way, such as one-page strip ‘Jerk Crows’ which perfectly sums up the nervous insecurity we’ve all felt when talking to someone we have feelings for.
Overall, Axolotl features anxiety, unhappiness, insecurity and self-loathing, all somehow pulled together into a surprisingly uplifting and engaging package. While some may see this as an almost uncomfortably candid look into its creator’s mind, I found myself absolutely gripped by the brutal honesty of it all. Equal parts autobiography, creative outlet and – dare I say – therapy, Axolotl is a book which won’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, but is one which I found to be an utterly riveting read.
If you’re at Thought Bubble this year, you can grab yourself a copy of Axolotl #2 from Jack in the New Dock Hall (Table 187), priced just £3.