Reviews: Modern Slorance – the Berlin Issue
Modern Slorance: the Berlin Issue,
“Travel, Romance, Sandwiches!”
As regular readers will already know, I am quite partial to a slice of Slorance, a modern comics delicacy in Scotland, and I tend to pounce on any new mini-comics from Neil (when he has time between his other, regular work since as the cracking Doctor Who strip). The previous Modern Slorance (reviewed here) was more slice-of-life and catching up with Neil and where he’s at now, while this one, as the title implies, is a return to a wee bit of comics travel lit. As the first couple of Neil’s comics that caught my eye a few years ago were travel works (Germany and Spain, reviewed here, and France reviewed here), this is no bad thing. I’ve said it before when looking at the likes of Guy Delisle’s work, but I think travel literature can work wonderfully in comics form – obviously we get the images as well as text, unlike a prose travel lit book, but sketchers tend to view the world a little differently and that carries over in the artwork, giving us a better and more unique view of the places they visit.
As this comic opens we have Neil musing that he’s not really got the travel bug like “most people”, before going on to admit that his idea of what most folk think of travel is what he’s seen on their Tinder profiles (“I like to travel and enjoy long walks by the sea…” However for a man who says he doesn’t have the travel bug I can’t help but notice this is the third of his comics I’ve picked up about travelling abroad! Following the results of the Brexit referendum Neil is feeling pretty down, as many were, and decides perhaps he needs a wee break to perk himself up. On finding his friend Rachel, a journalist, is going back to Berlin, a city she adores and lived in for several months before, he picks the German capital for his destination and arranges to meet here there.
Rachel takes him around some of the city, and his description of the Kreuzberg area is evocative of the place, a mix of the shabby and genteel, the uber-hip and the somewhat run-down, “it’s like it’s falling apart but looking super cool in the process.” Neil is also introduced to things he didn’t know were there, such as the beach area by the Wannsee “Berlin has a beach? It’s not by the sea!”), leading to a very Scottish “taps aff!” (“tops off”) as the T-shirt comes off on the beach, no doubt terrifying may of the local children with the glare from the pale, blue-white of his Scottish complexion (it takes the average Scots person three days on the beach to come up to just off-white, let alone tanned).
On a whim he contacts his friend Lisa, who we met in a previous travel comic, a friend and old flame. She’s actually moved now to Hamburg, but with the excellent train service in Germany that’s not too far for a side-trip, and Neil sets off for a day in the famous port city with Lisa, taking in the sights from a boat ride round the great port to dancing in a gay bar, and finding the pair of them fell happily into their old patterns, both knowing it can only be for a short time but enjoying the most of that sweet moment.
And that’s a large part of this collection, aside from the actual travel side of it, taking in sights and new spots, it’s the being with friends and enjoying the good moments when they come along, making the most of them, almost saving them up like an emotional rainy day bank account against the bleaker days that we come up against. There’s a sense of gentle, emotional warmth throughout the comic, as there often is in Neil’s other work too, and it raises a smile in the reader in response, as does Neil’s delightful cartoony versions of himself and friends, which manages the neat balancing trick of staying just the right side of cutesy, on the charming side but never becoming too overly sweet-cute.
And of course throughout there is also the food. A lot of nice food enjoyed in good company and enjoyed with relish (both the emotional and the condiment variety, no doubt). And having bumped into Neil at the recent ECAF event I was left wondering how the blazes he managed to eat all those delicacies and yet lose weight… This is an utter, warm-hearted delight to read.