Marble Cake

By Scott Jason Smith (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN: 978-1-910395-47-9 (TPB/Digital edition)

I read a lot of graphic novels. Some are awful, many are mediocre and the rest – great, good, noteworthy or just different from the mass, commercially-driven output of a global art form and industry – I share with you.

Some publishers have a proud policy of championing that last category (Top Shelf, Drawn & Quarterly, NBM, Oni Press, Fantagraphics and others) – even though there’s seldom any real money in it. My favourite of these bold pioneers at the moment is British-based Avery Hill Publishing. I truly have not yet seen a duff or homogenised release from them.

Scott Jason Smith hails from the seamy south side of London (as all the best folk do) and quickly forged a solid reputation with self-published comics and stories like ‘Blossom the tall old lady’ and in collaborations with mainstream-adjacent contemporaries in tomes such as 69 Love Songs Illustrated.

Scott is skilled in depicting people and mundane life and possesses a sharp sense of humour, honed by spending a lot of time listening to how ordinary folk talk. Knowing what we all have in common allows for an extremely deft use of dialogue to build character and construct scenarios at once drearily familiar and subtly tweaked and twisted. This all adds a potent veracity to this particular brand of everyday adventuring which here seamlessly slips from a soap-operatic drama of the mundane or “Commedia dell’plebia” to a suitably underplayed terror-scape mirroring the Theatre of the Absurd as envisioned by Samuel Beckett or Daniel Clowes…

Marble Cake was a debut novel-length tale, relating intersecting moments of a bunch of strangers and casual near-acquaintances who all interact with till girl Tracy at the local Smartmart store. Her job leaves plenty of time to fantasize about what “her” customers do when she’s not around, but she really has no idea of what’s really going on. In fact, no one does…

Life and death, joblessness and social standing, malice and sexual desire, intolerance and ennui, but especially hopelessness and general distrust tinge every real or imagined home-life that Tracy ponders – even her own. However, when genuine threat and mystery – such as a string of baffling disappearances – increasingly grip the community, no one has any idea how to respond…

This compelling, tale challenges notion of self-worth and universal rationality in a wryly acerbic manner that will intrigue and charm lovers of slice-of-life yarns as well as surreal storytelling, and who don’t mind doing a bit of the cerebral heavy lifting themselves.
© Scott Jason Smith 2019. All rights reserved.