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Comics Works: Keeping Two

For the last couple years, Jordan Crane has been rolling out his story ‘Keeping Two’ at art comics clearing house What Things Do. (‘Keeping Two’ has also been partially serialized in Crane’s semi-regular floppy series Uptight, previous editions of which are online too.) Crane’s story, a windstorm of deaths real, imagined, and figurative, is unsettling to a degree unlike anything else the artist has produced. It also reads like a primer on the advantages of the comics medium.

The latest installment of ‘Keeping Two’ lingers at the dinner table of a young couple that has recently suffered a miscarriage. As the two discuss a doctor’s visit and the offer of a cruise vacation, Crane shows the wife–broken by the death of her child–stabbing or otherwise inflicting harm upon herself. The conversation proceeds apace, our cue that the couple’s exchanges are real while the wife’s attacks upon herself are not. (Whether we’re seeing actual visions of the wife’s or more abstract indicators of her state of mind is less clear.)

‘Keeping Two’ takes one of comics’ most basic tools, and one of its most effective–juxtaposition–and uses it twice over in the couple’s dinner scene. Readers get the wife’s visual stream of consciousness and her public face in the same series of panels, as well as the crisscrossing of Crane’s extreme imagery and his couple’s tepid back-and-forth. The entire story traffics in this sort of formal play, and all of ‘Keeping Two’ thus far is powerful stuff, but Crane’s work becomes more moving–and more accomplished–as the story moves forward.

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