July 26, 2011

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Dharbin! 1-2 Collected Edition.

Written by Dustin Harbin
Illustrated by Dustin Harbin
Self-Published

Dustin might be best known in the wider comics world right now as the man who letters Casanova, which is pretty cool in and of itself. But there's another side to Mr. Harbin, one that involves an eclectic mix of autobiographical comics, history comics, crude jokes, and thoughtful reflection, all of which is on display here in Dharbin! 1-2 Collected Edition.

Harbin notes that these comics date back to 2008-2009, which means they tend to make him wince a bit at their quality (or lack thereof) in his opinion. But while there are definitely a few rough edges here and there, especially in the early going, Harbin's incredibly fine line details shine through from the start. While Harbin himself might be critical of his craft and works constantly to better, I find his artistic style to be impressive and find it to be above average in the world of mini-comics. I would easily recommend his work to a person looking to get into the mini-comics genre who placed a greater importance on art than story.

Part of the fun of this collected edition is that there is no rhyme, reason, or particular theme to the comics included. We get some recurring ideas, such as "This Day in History" where Harbin blends historical accuracy with clever satire or stories of Harbin's youth. These latter place the author in a sort of Charlie Brown/Calvin mode that works quite well and reminds me that we all have funny stories from our childhood that are great fun once you're old enough for the embarrassment to fade. At other times, we just get a comic about what Harbin was thinking about at the time, from a hatred of phones to cool cartoonists.

The whole thing holds up together incredibly well in my opinion. Though there are definitely echoes of other mini-comics creators in here, such as Harbin's friend Kate Beaton, the voice is uniquely Harbin's. His tone is a mix of optimism for what the world can be and pessimism about how the world actually is. That's a beat I can relate to strongly, which is probably part of why I liked this collection so much.

I'm not sure who originally got me following Dustin Harbin (might have been Rob Ullman--does that sound possible, Rob?), but I am very glad they did. Not only are his collected comics worth picking up, they're also reproduced in a high quality that's also affordable. This collected edition has a shiny, multi-tone cover and is 45 pages for only $5.00. I really appreciate it when creators give their work a nice presentation but also make it something I can buy without feeling ripped off or deciding, "thanks but no thanks." Harbin also does cool prints--two of which I just picked up for myself--that are also available at a reasonable rate. This is a man who does things right--good comics and good value. It's really hard to go wrong there!

You can pick up Dharbin! 1-2 Collected edition (as well as other items) at Harbin's store. In addition or if you prefer, you can get a feel for Harbin's style by following along with his frequent online postings. Either way, I strongly suggest you do so. I think Dustin Harbin is going to break out in a big way very soon. Why not be one of the cool people that says you were around for the early days? I think you'll be glad you did!