When Brown came out with Clumsy in 2003, it was as groundbreaking as any comic-book debut in the last 20 years. Clumsy was an unsentimental look at Brown's relationship with a woman, from beginning to end, and it provoked the kind of embarrassment in many readers that felt similar to an epiphany. But then Brown came out with Unlikely, about another relationship, told in exactly the same style. And then AEIOU: Any Easy Intimacy, about another relationship, told in exactly the same way. And then a couple of collections involving other girlfriends and smatterings of confessional garbage ("I bite my fingernails! I do stupid things! I get sick a lot!").
In the time since, Brown has produced Bighead, a weak satire of superheroes; Incredible Change-Bots, a tribute to Brown's childhood Transformers that wound up on the wrong side of pathetic; and Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations, about Brown's fucking cat and all the fucking cute things it does. In the long and depressing history of comics, it's hard to think of another artist who has squandered such a promising start.
So now comes Little Things, yet another full-length memoir, about Brown's physical ailments and the music that he buys and his horrible job and, mainly, his attempts at romance that now, in the light of familiarity, look like creepily manipulative fumblings by a man too dumb to realize that he's making the same mistakes again and again. It would all be too sad to comment on, except for the horrifying coda at the end of this book: Apparently, Brown has successfully fathered a child. That ought to keep him in books (and us in aggravation) for years to come. PAUL CONSTANT