4 out of 5
Disarmingly dumb, and stupid – but note that it is dumb and stupid – ‘Land of Nod’ collects Jay Stephens’ early ‘Sin’ comics, which loosely tell the story of demoniacal cat creature Nod, who goes missing and maybe causes the apocalypse, and then the quest of his two “friends” – odd couple Merv and Dave – on their search for their buddy. It’s not really about that, of course, but rather a loose collection of gag strips featuring faux superheroes and Sunday Comics, and then it actually is about that when all of these gag strips cross into and out of one another and refer to one another and now the characters are asking why they’re so crudely drawn and roundabout now you’re coming around to realizing that this dumb stupidity is actually pretty damn smart. Jay has great comedic timing with his art, while keeping it very loose a childish looking – but check that fine linework in the backgrounds and the general scene-setting to get clued in that we’re also dealing with a skilled artist – and ‘Nod’ has a rather ideal dash of crassness and swears throughout, ne’er wallowing in it like some of his indie peers, but dropping choice poop jokes and Fucks for effect.
Of course, there’s still quite a bit of random whimsy guiding things, and when it all starts circling back around on itself, it feels more like luck than rigorous planning, but the breezy, chill nature of Stephens’ yucks and drawings keep it charming throughout.
Also includes various scraps from an unpublished Sin issue and other sketches, showing how the goofball mentality behind this was there from the start, and that the increasing complexity would’ve been carried through to the end.