Arts Books By The Book literature Review

★★☆☆☆ Book Review: Save Me From Chloe by Kang Jing

Fledgling comic strip needs time to work on its writing and world-building.

Living with a younger sibling can be one of the most frustrating, or rewarding experiences of your life (and often, both at the same time). In Save Me From Chloe, Kang Jing’s self-published collection of comic strips, the artist chronicles the ups and downs of a pair of siblings daily lives in Singapore, with the rotund Nathan and his 5-year old sister Chloe. Trading insults, pranks, and attempting to outwit each other, more often than not, they end up exasperated by each other’s antics.

Comprising 60 4-panel strips, Save Me From Chloe comprises plenty of relatable moments that anyone who’s ever lived with a younger sibling may remember. Whether it’s Chloe attempting to touch Nathan’s precious figurine collection while he’s away, or even the sillier side of youth, such as using eye power to somehow determine the volume of bubble tea in a cup, encapsulating the innocence and complete lack of filter children have.

In terms of its art style, Kang Jing isn’t afraid to veer into exaggeration, extremities and comic tropes to bring out the visual humour. At times, Chloe imaginatively descends a rope in a covert operation to steal food from the fridge, while in almost every strip, common emanata from exaggerated ‘woosh’ lines to indicate speed, or the rivulets of sweat dripping down Nathan’s face when dealing with Chloe’s antics. While it’s a somewhat dated art style, and the final drawings do feel crudely finished at times, Kang Jing is always careful to fill each panel with enough details to illustrate the world of Nathan and Chloe.

The quality of a four-panel comic, however, is also determined by its punchlines. Perhaps due to its ‘all ages’ target audience, the jokes are relatively tame, and often predictable. Because of the nature of the comic, the types of issues faced by the siblings, while varied, often all seem to end on the same note, and the repetitive nature of the punchlines makes many of the strips forgettable.

While some of the very best strips out there don’t need more than a few recurring characters, because of its repetitive writing, Save Me From Chloe‘s lack of world building also serves to hinder it from further developing its protagonists’ personalities. Yes, the two of them share a cordial existence with its share of comedy and ‘drama’, but because of how isolated they are, with no other speaking characters present, it is hard to get a grasp on the depth of either character beyond their relationship with each other, something Kang Jing might consider if he ever writes more strips (as teased on the final page).

Am I expecting too much of a self-published comic with a simple premise? Maybe. But we’ve seen how even simple strips like Calvin and Hobbes or Mr Kiasu have managed to make the format work for them, and shoot their artists into relative renown. For now, Save Me From Chloe captures a familiar, if basic, portrayal of sibling relationships, and while it does have the potential to be developed, it has some way to go before fully endearing itself to me.

Recommended for: Younger readers who want a simple, relatable local comic strip to breeze through.

Save Me From Chloe is self-published and available here. Alternatively, visit the online store for a physical copy here, or the digital version here

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