Earlier in the year, we had the good fortune to dive into the surrealist sequential worlds of David Robertson via his then-latest collection of comics But a Dream! Stretching back into his comicsography further, he’s now treated us to Break the Cake. Published in 2018, it packs in the similarly strange vibes from But a Dream!, but shoots for a more eclectic style of presentation than its comparatively cohesive follow-up.
Where But a Dream! collected together comics new and old from Robertson’s career, Break the Cake features Robertson’s trademark humour illustrated not only by himself, but a mixture of different artists, including Reebecca Horner, Ludi Price, and Pam Wye. The fluctiating appearance of Break the Cake‘s strips then has the detrimental effect of throwing Break the Cake‘s taught surrealism off balance. Not every art style here feel suited to Robertson’s dream-like narratives. Even when Robertson’s thoughtful, low-key parodies of everyday life are joyfully intact, the different types of art detracts instead of enhances that humour.
Robertson’s imitiable narrative style and sly comic timing tap into similar nostalgic leanings as seen in But a Dream!, but Break the Cake focuses on movies and music. Robertson takes movies ranging from Star Wars to Jurassic Park and bands/artists spanning from Yes to Billy Mackenzie, he uses these forms of media as a springboard to execute his offbeat humour, often in the space of a handful of pages. It’s a taste that won’t satisfy everyone, but it remains an idiosyncratic one. The wandering nature of the strip’s various narratives and their quick-fire, thinly-detailed illustrations gives Break the Cake a sketchbook feel, as if we’re allowed to stroll around in Robertson’s mind.
Taking Break the Cake‘s cinematic tendencies to its logical extreme, the comic ends on a high with the lengthily and evocate 24-page strip Dog Walker. Epic in scale yet humorous at heart, its deadpan parody of spy, sci-fi, superhero and Kaiju movie tropes is a welcome departure from the more compact style of narrative comedy Robertson delivers throughout his comics.
The bulk of content being handled by different artists works as often as it doesn’t, and ultimately overshadows the surrealist themes at play here. Still, all the hallmarks of Robertson as a story-teller and drawer of comics make themselves known in Break the Cake. His humour continues to pack in the punches, even if it feels like there’s a delayed impact in how unpredictable his characters and stories are. When reading a Fred Egg Comic though, that’s all part of the fun.