That Night (This Must Be the Place) is the newest print comic from Chicago-based Tony Breed, creator of the web comics Muddlers Beat and Ignatz award-nominated Finn and Charlie are Hitched. It premiered at the Small Press Expo (SPX). That Night marks a departure from Breed's traditional three-panel format, and is a glimpse into Breed's personal experience coping through music with the loss of his husband Eric Tschetter, who passed away in 2015 after a battle with brain cancer and to whom the book is dedicated.
Through this lovely eight-page comic, Breed has challenged himself with a narrative interrupted by devastating flashbacks, and an emotionally charged approach to impressionist coloring. His comics usually have a more standard coloring approach, not unlike Sunday funnies, but a striking element of That Night is with several page turns, the colors wash through his delicate lines like watercolor, moving with the changing time as well as emotion.
The narrative is direct, but poetically layered. Breed visits his friend Daniel at a neighborhood dive bar the night of June 5, 2016. Breed drinks an IPA, and then they have a shot with a pickle-juice chaser (it's called a pickleback, apparently). The next part of the story is to set in motion the sense memory of music, specifically in relationship to Breed's loss. Daniel gives Breed his iPod to select music (they're seemingly the only people in the bar), and Breed is stirred to play a new cover of the Talking Heads song "This Must Be the Place" by the band Kishi Bashi. Being a music nerd (Breed is cofounder and board member of Chicago Independent Radio Project), he looks for this particular version on the virtual jukebox to no avail. Next thing you know it has gotten late, and Breed needs to head home. He passes a discarded mattress, and posts a photo of it on his Instagram with the title "Poem." After missing his bus stop, he takes a mile and a half walk home. In this walk, he listens to the Kishi Bashi cover and reflects on the day of a friend's wedding. He sees this event he attended with Eric with the rosiest of hues. Everything that occurs after this point has a steely grey tone. The coloring, panel layouts, loving detail of the environments he occupies, and the momentum of the broken timeline all speak to the poetry in Breed's essence, not unlike the way he views and documents the discarded mattress. Shifting back to his June 2016 sojourn home, listening to the song that connects him so closely to his lost love, and then landing on a peculiar late evening sight feels exactly like the art film we often feel we are in when feeling introspective. This was an evening worth preserving in his body of work.
There is then a humorous release, and the reader is let go.
Breed has sub-titled his book, "One night. One song. One man's journey through grief." The book doesn't provide any answers to resolving this grief, but it opens up how one man's unique process is shared with everyone who is willing to take a moment. I find it amusing that technology has a role in nearly every gesture of the story, but being able to hold this printed piece of Breed's personal experience, like any printed comic, has its own romance, context, and tactile experience. I cherish how we are able to join each other in these two dimensional paper worlds, and can put away the devices that can remove us from their emotional impact. "That Night (This Must Be the Place)" is highly recommended for such an experience, and can be purchased here.