Yellow Baby #1

By Jed Alexander
32 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

One-man anthologies can be both appealing and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, you often get a wide variety of stories and styles by the creator all collected into a single volume, letting you experience all sorts of different approaches in one sitting. On the other hand, there’s nothing more frustrating than getting an anthology by a single creator, loving one entry in particular, and wishing all the rest of the pages had been just like that. It’s sort of like an appetizer tray, where either you’ll love the entire assortment or make you wish you’d just ordered a lot more of one particular food. I’d never read anything by Jed Alexander before Yellow Baby #1, so I had no idea just which of those two options I’d be in for…

Yellow Baby opens with the first part of a longer work, “Turtle, turtle”. A young boy, Cesar, goes to live with his grandmother in Mexico for the summer, and begins to head down a path of discovery. Alexander infuses this story with a wonderful sense of narration, which moves rhythmically with the art in a way that makes the story sound as if the protagonist is recounting the story directly to you. Of the four stories in Yellow Baby this is easily my favorite, a strange mixture of wistfulness and disgust for the memories of an earlier time. The story is only beginning in this first installment, but when I got to the end of the chapter I found myself really wishing that I could see more, and right away.

The other three stories in Yellow Baby are a little lighter, and in some ways a little more blatant. “Free Ideas” is a twist on the old “where do you get your ideas?” question, as Alexander begins to offer up a series of crazy ideas for stories, each goofier than the one before. They’re all deliberate takes on other existing ideas, but Alexander takes each of the ideas one step further, hammering the joke with an added layer of nervous laughter. “Making Little Boys”, on the other hand, is much more serious as two young girls use a concoction to “make little boys” out of a mold. Short and sweet, Alexander knows how to disturb the reader with a simple and innocent idea that’s gone horribly wrong. The only story that didn’t work at all for me was “Fil’s La La”, an over-the-top explosion of violence and mutilation as Fil gets his very own “la la” and then things go horribly wrong. I just always felt like I was somehow missing part of the story here, with the contents just not quite connecting with my brain.

Alexander’s art is a strange, loosely inked style that works wonderfully with most of his stories. The way Alexander draws people makes them seem almost normal… but not quite. There’s always just something a little off-kilter with his characters, like they’ve been slightly warped when you weren’t paying attention. When you add this style to a story like “Turtle, turtle” the effect is instant. Cesar’s outsider status becomes more apparent by the funhouse-mirror antics of the world around him, making him feel truly alien. Likewise, in “Making Little Boys” Alexander is able to make the creations flop and twist around as they’re pulled out of their molds in such a way that you instantly know that something is horribly wrong with these creations, that the girls are doing something they shouldn’t. It’s a very powerful art style, and while you wouldn’t want to see it used on just anything, Alexander’s matched it well to his writing. The only time it seemed to fall flat for me was in “Fil’s La La”, where it seemed to obscure more than clarify what was going on in the story. Even the handsome two-color process used in Yellow Baby #1 just didn’t seem to help here, which was unfortunate, because I’d enjoyed so much of the rest of the book.

In the end, Yellow Baby #1 is a success if for no other reason than I’m absolutely dying to read more of “Turtle, turtle”. That’s not to say that the rest of the book was a wash, of course; “Making Little Boys” certainly showed me that Alexander isn’t a one-note creator by any stretch of the imagination. While I still definitely want to see more short stories from Alexander, though, here’s hoping we get more “Turtle, turtle” soon. Yellow Baby #1 served its sampler function perfectly, letting me know just exactly what I’d like to have more of the next time through.

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