Writer Nick Jones sent me a copy of his self-published graphic novel Tiny Life: l(a, and I promised him that I'd review it here, if not at CBR. Well, there's just no way this book is professional enough to qualify for a CBR review, so I'll review it briefly right now.
In short, Tiny Life: l(a, which is -- according to Jones's introduction -- just the first book of a projected ten-book series, is a nearly total failure. As a concept, it's not without merits, and the core of the story seems to be about exploring the nature of identity when your dad turns out to be the Second Coming, but the art by Nicolas Colacitti and Nick Jones is abysmal, the storytelling is elliptical without being poetic, and the thematic concerns are so blatant that it's more like a series of diary entries than a narrative.
And, shockingly, embarrassingly, Jones has decided to use an incredibly difficult to decipher font to reveal some of the most central plot information, and he insists on building to a climax only to have information displayed in supposedly handwritten letters. I don't know the name of the font Jones uses for the "handwriting," but it completely ruins those sections of the story. And Jones decides to turn this book into an epistolary story the longer it goes on, forcing more and more letters and (thankfully, easier-to-read) journal pages on the reader. A single letter, revealing essential plot information, might have worked just fine in the context of this book, but the repeated use of the letters and journals turns the story into a parody of itself. I flipped each page wondering when another impossible to read letter might pop up and completely shut the story down.
This is clearly a very personal comic. Jones talks in his introduction about how long he's worked on this story, paring it down and then expanding it. Turning it into something much more than it was originally intended to be. But the finished product is fourth-rate undergrad nonsense, imbued with an ugly version of Chris Ware's sad loneliness, made explicit on the page with the constant narrative captions that tell us exactly how the stick-figured protagonist feels at every single moment.
The final scene is stronger than the rest of the book, though, generating a deeply disturbing creepiness that could propel readers into the promised volume 2. But, really, the deficiencies of the rest of the book will probably keep many readers from even finishing volume 1, never mind seeking out the eventual second volume.
I'm sure this project means a lot to Nick Jones, and maybe with a vastly superior artist and a compact and more subtle narrative, he could have made the underlying concept work. But as it stands now, it's not something I would recommend to anyone.