Motel Art Improvement Service

Bee, the ever-curious mystery-solving photographer of Shutterbug Follies, returns, but to my eyes, she’s almost a different person. That shouldn’t be surprising — it’s been eight years since I last read about her. Even if fictional characters don’t really change on their own, I’m a different person than when I last enjoyed her reckless adventures.

Motel Art Improvement Service cover
Motel Art Improvement Service
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And reckless is certainly the word here. Bee is setting out on a bicycle trip cross-country, from New York to San Francisco. Due to a road accident, she only gets as far as New Jersey, where she finds herself at a small motel with an unusual cleaner. While visiting the rooms, Cyrus takes some of any drugs he finds there, as well as “upgrading” the typical generic art — he paints in unusual additions, to recontextualize the events in shocking ways.

The narrative is as I would expect from a story originally told as a weekly strip/webcomic — it meanders, with incidents from early on moved past as different characters are introduced over time. The consolidating through-line is Bee’s deflowering, as she gathers equipment, meets her eventual first-partner-to-be, and gets to know and work with him. They move elsewhere, to an airport hotel, only to get involved with a drug deal that provides chase and fight sequences for action.

While the story disappointed me at times in its crudeness, the art is what attracts me, especially due to its gorgeous subtle coloring. The images are well-chosen to convey Bee’s world, whatever she’s doing or seeing, although she’s usually the focus of the panel. At times, she’s rubbery, with curving limbs to capture her motion and a welcome bottom-heavy pear shape anatomically. Cyrus, in contrast, is angles, skinny with freakishly long arms and squared-off bony shoulders.

Although Bee is only 18, and a coming-of-age story is often of interest to teenagers, this is not a book for the young, with raw language, nudity, sex, drugs… all that’s missing is the rock’n’roll. It makes me feel old and somewhat delusional, as I wish there would have been a lot more romance, a lot less using, for Bee’s first time.

There are sample pages at Little’s website. (The publisher provided a review copy.)


2 Responses to “Motel Art Improvement Service”

  1. Ed’s Thoughts on SPX 2011 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] were meeting Jason Little and Roger Langridge. I got to tell Jason how much I’ve enjoyed his two Bee books, and I picked up a new minicomic he is doing. I was able to get a signed copy of The Show Must Go […]

  2. SPX 2011 Minicomics (by Ed) » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Illustrated #1 Vlak by Jason Little I’m a big fan of Little’s Bee Comix, so it was thrilling to get to meet him. Vlak is done like a photo book of a vacation. It’s an […]




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