Created by: Ross Mackintosh / Published by: Com.x / Format: Paperback / Release date: Out now
This intimate graphic novel chronicles the relationship between a father and son, as the father Zaz succumbs to cancer and the son Ross Mackintosh processes the chain of events leading to his father’s death and how this will colour his feelings towards his own children. This story about death and grief is ultimately life-affirming and a heartfelt tribute to a lost father, capturing the quirks and wry humour that characterised Zaz’ relationship to his family and meditating on the hole left in his absence.
I’ve read several other reviewers expressing surprise that Seeds is Ross Mackintosh’s first book-length work, but I disagree with this assessment and feel that Seeds reads very much like a first graphic novel. It succeeds because of its sincerity and tight focus, but Seeds sometimes falls short with themes and ideas that are not really developed. At one point Ross talks to a friend about how he’s thinking about turning his experiences into a comic, but this never goes anywhere and is so brief that I wondered why it was included at all. The potential was there for a commentary, possibly on the cathartic process of turning the experience into art, but instead it wasn’t developed and I found that I couldn’t understand the author’s intention.
The difficulty in objectively appraising Seeds is that to criticise it is to criticise a love letter to a lost father, but the faults in Seeds are slight and the finished graphic novel makes good on Ross’ intention to capture some of the flavour that characterised his father’s life and the tragedy of his decline. The art is simple and functional, but this simplicity works in Seeds’ favour, allowing the reader to imprint their own relationships on the characters and in a small way share in Ross’ grief. The honesty and insight of Seeds’ contents outstrip the craft through which they are expressed, but in a story like this honesty is infinitely more valuable than artistic polish.
Autobiographical comics so often transform mundane events by attributing greater significance to them than they might deserve, but Seeds does the opposite, taking an intimate event of catastrophic significance and somehow capturing it in such a way that we come closer to understanding its complexity. More than just a graphic novel, Seeds becomes an expression of graphic non-fiction in which Ross Mackintosh’s loss becomes our loss and through Seeds we all mourn for his father Zaz.