Hobo Mom

By Charles Forsman – Max de Radiguès (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-176-5 (HB) eISBN

The most wonderful thing about the comics medium is that it is utterly transformative and variable; dependent upon the abilities of the individuals or teams of creatives involved. Hobo Mom is a sublime case in point, a single story crafted by two separate cartoonists working simultaneously and collaboratively, even though situated thousands of miles apart.

Forsman is a multi-award-winning graduate of Vermont’s celebrated Center for Cartoon Studies (founded at White River Junction by James Sturm and Michelle Ollie in 2004), whose previous releases include Celebrated Summer, The End of the Fucking World and I Am Not Okay with This. You should also be aware of his self-published mini-comics Snake Oil, Revenger and Slasher

Max de Radiguès hails from Belgium. He was born in 1982 and, when not creating books and comics for youngsters and adults, runs publishing houses L’employé du Moi (Ego Employee) and Éditions Sabarcane. In September 2009 he began a one-year residency at the Center for Cartoon Studies and turned his experiences into Meanwhile in White River Junction from Six Feet Under the Earth: a biography celebrated at the Angoulême International Comics Festival 2012.

During 2018, although divided by an entire ocean, these gentlemen used the magic of comics to seamlessly craft this poignant, understated examination of family break-up and possible renewal…

Single parent Tom lives a quiet life with his young daughter Sissy (and her pet rabbit Hazel). It’s not paradise, but it will do. Meanwhile, on a freight train, a bindlestiff heads toward them, practising what she’s going to say. It’s not an uneventful trip, but what lies ahead is far more daunting the hardship, privation and potential molestation and murder…

A little later, Sissy is playing when a woman introduces herself as Natasha and asks if her dad’s home…

That’s all you’re getting. You’ve already guessed what’s going on from the title, but you really must see for yourselves what happens when a compulsion for independence battles a need to renew maternal drives, and a need to keep moving wars with a hunger for love and even suffocating emotional ties…

And that’s not even considering how the stay-at-homes might feel and react…

Deceptively simple but devastatingly effective, Hobo Mom is a cunning and evocative exploration of humanity anyone with a heart must read.
© 2019 Charles Forsman – Max de Radiguès. This edition © 2019 Fantagraphics Books Inc. All rights reserved.

750cc Down Lincoln Highway

By Bernard Chambaz & Barroux, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-245-8 (TPB)

For such a young country, there’s an astounding amount of vibrant – almost self-perpetuating – mythology underpinning America. Cowboys, Indians, colonialism, Manifest Destiny, gangsterism, Hollywood, food, Rock ‘n’ Roll and even names and places have permeated the imagination of the world. This last even created its own sub-genre: tales of travel and introspection ranging from Kerouac’s On the Road to Thelma and Louise via almost half the “Buddy movies” ever made.

Somehow, these stories always seem to particularly resonate with non-Americans. Scottish, French and Italian consumers are especially partial to westerns and Belgians adore period gangster and tales set in the golden age of Los Angeles. I must admit that during my own times stateside there was always a little corner of my head that ticked off places I’d seen or heard of in film, TV or comics (Mann(Grauman)’s Chinese Theatre, Central Park, Daly Plaza, Empire State Building) or uniquely American moments and activities (pretzel cart, bag of potato chips bigger than my head, bar fight) as I experienced them myself. That’s the true magic of modern legends.

It’s also the theme driving this beautiful travelogue depicting life imitating art…

Available in oversized (288 x 214 mm) paperback and digital formats, 750cc Down Lincoln Highway reveals how a French competitor in the New York Marathon takes a cathartic life detour after getting a “Dear John” text from his apparently no-longer significant other an hour before the start.

Understandably deflated, he hits a bar, discovers bourbon and strikes up a conversation with one of life’s great survivors…

Ed’s barfly philosophy hits home – as does his description and potted history of the Lincoln Highway – and before long our narrator has hired a motorbike and decided to cross the USA down the historic route from East Coast to West…

Rendered in a dreamy, contemplative wash of greytones, his ride becomes a shopping list of transitory experiences confirming – and occasionally debunking – the fictive America inside his head and his preconceptions of the people who live there.

Putting concrete sounds, tastes, sights and smells to such exotic ports of call as Weehawken, Princeton, Trenton, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Pittsburgh, Zulu, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Dekalb, Mississippi, Central City, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Eureka, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Berkeley and so many other places before reaching the highway’s end at Poteau Terminus, the rider regains his life’s equilibrium and gets on with the rest of his life, happy that the trip and the anonymous people he met have rewarded him with perspective and fresh hope…

Backed up by an extensive map of the trip and garnished with suitable quotes from Abraham Lincoln, this is quite literally all about the journey, not the destination…

Written by award-winning novelist, poet and historian Bernard Chambaz (L’Arbre de vies, Kinopanorama), this beguiling excursion is realised by multimedia artist and illustrator Barroux (Where’s the Elephant?, In the Mouth of the Wolf) and serves as a potent reminder of the power names and supposition can exert on our collective unconsciousness.

It’s also a superbly engaging, warmly inviting graphic meander to a mutual destination no armchair traveller should miss.
750cc Down Lincoln Highway is published on February 17th 2020 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads go to NBM Publishing at nbmpub.com

Black Ghost Apple Factory

By Jeremy Tinder (DC Comics)

It a multimedia world – and decade without rules or restraint – so creative folk can liberate themselves from pigeonholes and escape categorisation with ease nowadays.

A perfect case-in-point is sculptor, designer, painter, toy designer, illustrator and educator Jeremy Tinder who also writes and draws some of the most intriguing comics you’ll ever see. Even if you don’t read his wonderful graphic novel Cry Yourself to Sleep or the collected minicomics re-presented in this captivating digital anthology, you can attend some of his classes at the School of Art Institute of Chicago, Marwen Foundation, The Evanston Art Center or the Hyde Park Art Center. He’s based in Chicago but also finds time to contribute to comics collective Trubble Club and the installation/performance group Paintallica.

As previously mentioned, Black Ghost Apple Factory is an anthological collection of small strips; created between 2004 and 2006, drafted in stark monochrome and examining a number of topics with surreal wit, deft empathy and captivating honesty. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gasp and scratch your head…

It all kicks off with 2006’s eponymous ‘Black Ghost Apple Factory’ as a lovestruck spirit ponders the wonders of love and infatuation before settling down to hard days work making fruit, after which we learn that automata are just as bad as guys in ‘Robots Don’t Say “I Love You”’ from 2004.

Making creepy stalking and introspection adorable, funny and vulnerable ‘It’s Spring, and Jeremy Tinder is Secretly in Love with You…’ – meanders into wild territory as ‘Grizzly – or How I Spent my Spring Break’ (both from 2006) details an unusual ursine encounter in Wisconsin that changed his life…

A post-modern bunny fed up with pointless hedonism then admits ‘I’m So Tired’ (2006) and a kitty filled with Joie de vivre is shattered by a visit to the vet and confrontation with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend in ‘Today is the First Day of the Rest of My Life, and I’m So Happy’

Like the closing vignette, that one was from 2005, and ‘1, 2, 3, 4’ examines another doomed interspecies affair and tragic farewell in a typically understated and abstract manner…

Smart, intriguingly intense and emotionally mischievous, these tales explore relationships, relaxation and working life in wickedly different ways that will delight anyone in search of a different take on their comics entertainments.
Black Ghost Apple Factory © 2006 Jeremy Tinder. All rights reserved.

Lala Albert: Seasonal Shift – Comics 2013-2019

By Lala Albert (Breakdown Press/The Library of Contemporary Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-911081-09-8 (TPB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Because Not All Beautiful Things are Pretty… 9/10

All right-thinking people know that graphic narrative is the most expressive and expansive medium to work in, right? The range of themes explored, stories told and varieties of delivery are pretty near infinite if created by an inspired artisan.

The act of stringing pictures and/or words together is something almost everybody has done at some stage of their lives. It’s a key step in the cognitive path of children and, for an increasing number of us, that compulsive, absorbing euphoria never goes away.

Whilst many millions acquiesce to the crushing weight of a world which stifles the liberation of creativity, turning a preponderance of makers into consumers, a privileged, determined few carry on: drawing, exploring, and in some cases, with technology’s help, producing and sharing.

That emotional and creative volatility has never been better realised than in the modern crop of storymakers, many of whom are being rightly-celebrated in collections of minicomics and collections such as this compilation of works by Brooklyn-based Lala Albert as part of the Library of Contemporary Comics, which is collecting shorter works by the best cartoonists currently working in the medium right now.

Opening with a forthright ‘Interview’ conducted by Michael DeForge, this sequence of tales, vignettes and self-publications addresses body issues, human relationships, and most especially interactions with society and the ever more imperilled environment through terse short stories, generally framed in science fictional, fantasy and horror terms of reference.

Gathered from Albert’s last six years, the raw, primitivist, questing revelations begin with ‘Morning Dew’: a self-published moment of luxurious hedonism in natural circumstances from 2019 that lapses into a glimpse at the inevitable, if improbable, consequence of plastic saturation, first seen in Future Shock #7 (2014), before ‘Starlight Local’ – part of Alien Invasion volume 3, 2013 – details the disturbing outcome of a casual hook-up during an interstellar commute…

Consumerism and self-determination get a handy heads-up when a girl orders a ‘nu device’ (Trapper Keeper volume 4, 2016) after which a new kind of surveillance society dystopia is explored and overturned in ‘R.A.T.’ (crafted for Latvia’s Kuš Comics in 2015).

These tales are delivered in a range of styles and palettes, but for me, pure stark monochrome is always a blessing, so the ferocious attitude of ‘Brainbuzz’ (Weird Magazine volume 5, 2014) only intensifies the disturbing exploration of bodily invasion undertaken here…

Masks and the mutability of personas are thoroughly, forensically questioned in kJanus’’:a voyage of intense personal discovery first released by Breakdown Press UK in 2014, before a distressing fascination of what lurks under our skins is displayed in ‘Flower Pot’! courtesy of Marécage, Revue Lagon, France, 2019.

An epic of ecological combat and fairy survival is revealed in multi-chapter saga of survival ‘Wet Earth’ (Sonatina, 2017), pitting ethereal pixies against the lower ends of an uncaring food chain, before a modicum of sanity – but never safety or true security – returns via comforting self-assessment in ‘Pinhole’ (Over the Line, Sidekick Books UK, 2015). After everything, it’s always good to check back in with your own skin…

Dark but never hopeless, and always avoiding slick, glib professional sheen, these tales bore right in to the heart, asking questions we all have. Whether you find any answers truly depends on you…
All work © Lala Albert 2019. This edition © Breakdown Press 2019. All rights reserved.

The Artist: The Circle of Life

By Anna Haifisch (Breakdown Press)
ISBN: 978-1-91108-107-4 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Picture Perfect Grown Up Fun… 9/10

Like Norwegian émigré and cartoon superstar Jason, Anna Haifisch is a compulsive visualiser and raconteur with a devastating touch of whimsy that is impossible to resist.

Born in 1986 in Leipzig, the illustrator and screen printer is a truly dedicated purveyor of captivating comics that exude charm and wit whilst tackling big issues in accessible ways. She’s also very sly, and very funny. It’s made her something of an international celebrity…

In 2017 her book The Artist introduced an effete intellectual avian utterly in love with the fashionable concept of being a creator and this long-awaited sequel delivers another clutch of wry, vainglorious, heartfelt, pompous and charming episodes detailing how tough it is to dedicate one’s life to the Muse… especially if you only want to draw birds and snakes…

A vivid hardback collation, sequel volume The Circle of Life collects strips from 2016 that first appeared online at Vice.Com and shares even more insights in powerful line and flat colour combinations, beginning with an eponymous self-deprecating introduction…

Delivered as short 2-3 page cartoon colloquies, the drama dioramas open on a wearying, pharmaceutical-fuelled night out with Owl, leading to an origin of sorts and a challenging confrontation with that bane of all artists, the wealthy but clueless collector/sponsor…

Most episodes are brief and untitled but some earn themselves notoriety and utility through names such as ‘Art Rap’ which follows a deliriously engaging vignette about St. Luke (Patron Saint of artists). After that blending of imagery with devious street patter, an idealised day segues into a faux documentary on lost painter Edzard Fünfhauser, an incident of excoriating self-recrimination, a visit to the psych ward and a restorative trip down memory lane…

A fanciful sojourn amidst Art’s Great Ones and a historically significant moment of letter-writing leads to a temporary abandonment of dreams and principles before a sordid session of tool fetishism restores equilibrium via a period of Japanese impressionism and Haiku drafting.

There follows and Interlude: On Birds enquiring ‘What Happened to All the Aspiring Cartoon Birds’ (such as Donald, Woodstock and Tweety), after which a dissertation on being online and painful interactions with a non-artistic relative lead to a re-examination of favourite themes and a brief commission in frozen Greenland.

A sad tryst with a cage bird triggers ‘3 Jolly Autumn Strips’; a visit to the Jail built for Artists and the horrors of tawdry commercialism and hawking your work to the public (so clearly autobiographical, as Haifisch is co-founder of Germany’s The Millionaires Club Indie Comics Festival in Leipzig) before concluding on an uplifting high note with an illustrative paean to creativity and a singalong tribute to ‘Sorority’

Outrageous and charming, these exploration of the fabled life and anxiety-drenched traps of the creative spirit are a delight for everyone who’s ever picked up a pencil or looked at a masterpiece and thought “I can do that”…
© Anna Haifisch Breakdown Press 2019.

The Pits of Hell

By Ebisu Yoshikazu (Breakdown Press)
ISBN: 978-1-91108-108-1 (PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Shocking, Momentous, Unmissable… 8/10

Please be warned: I’ll be using some harsh language further down: if you of your dependents are likely to be offended, please skip this review. You certainly won’t be comfortable reading the book we’re reviewing here…

If you’re one of those people who’s never read a manga tale, or who’s been tempted but discouraged by the terrifying number of volumes these tales can run to, here’s a delicious feast of fantasy fables complete in one book revealing all that’s best about comics from the East in one darkly digestible big gulp.

Although an industry of immense, almost incomprehensible variety, much of Japan’s output is never seen in western translation, so for us, most manga – divided into story genres we easily recognise – can be lazily characterised by a fast, raucous, over-stylised, occasionally choppy style and manner of delivery, offering peeks into the quirks of a foreign culture through coy sensuality, carefully managed action and “aw shucks” conviviality.

It’s not all like that.

This volume gathers emphatically eerie and definitely disturbing short stories for adults that originate from the nation’s rebellious heta-uma movement (equivalent to but not the same as our late 1970s Punk revolution), all crafted by a fringe creator who became a true national treasure…

Ebisu Yoshikazu began as an outsider: a self-trained manga maker who shunned the sleek polish of mainstream Japanese comics to craft deeply personal ant-art yarns, initially for avant-garde counter culture anthology style icon Garo and landmark experiment Jam, but later for many other magazines after his harsh material struck a chord with 1970s-1980s readers, increasingly reeling from social and economic change.

Mr. Yoshikazu was born in Amakusa, Kumamoto Prefecture in October 1947 and raised in Nagasaki, where he was fatefully shaped by the post war trauma that permeated the region and the country. Drawing comics from early on, he was especially influenced by the fantasy works of Osamu Tezuka and Mitsuteru Yokoyama, but as a teenager his life changed when he discovered the gekiga (“Dramatic Pictures”) comics sub-genre as well as American action movies.

He moved to Tokyo in 1970 and – while working menial jobs – began submitting stories to Garo in 1973. His bleak, violently surreal, dream-based efforts featured bizarre, antisocial situations and outcomes and found a welcome – if unpaid – home in the magazine. He became a fan favourite without his knowledge and when years later he finally released a compilation of his tales, was astonished to see it become a huge hit with many reprintings.

The creatively-driven working-class manga-maker – think more Harvey Pekar than Harvey Kurtzman – parlayed his growing fame as an outsider artist and misfit into mass-media celebrity, but latterly suffered a great loss of fame, prestige and revenue following a gambling scandal.

In Japan, commercial betting is illegal except in certain, highly proscribed and policed situations. That doesn’t bother Ebisu Yoshikazu who remains a proud advocate and champion of what many people consider a shameful addiction. His passion for wagers has shaped his life and continues to …

Heta-uma transliterates to “bad-good” or “bad but nice”: glorying in the power of raw, primitivist graphics and narratives that are seductively seditious whilst exploring uncomfortable themes, so please be warned that most of these nine early vignettes are brutally violent and also distressing on other, more intimate levels. If you’re looking for Western equivalents, go no further than the more excessive outings of Gary Panter and Johnny Ryan…

This potent tome reprints that first compilation in English and is preceded (or followed by – depending on your graphic orientation, as the comics portion of the book is traditional manga right to left, end to beginning format) by a series of text features including ‘Why is This So Good?’: a deconstruction of the stories by Garo editor Minami Shinbō from the 1981 original compilation.

‘About these Comics’ offers the author’s own thoughts on the material from 2016 and is followed by extended essay ‘Damn All Gamblers to the Pits of Hell’ by translator/editor Ryan Holmberg affording us not only history, context and insight into the artist but also gauging the effects of his works on the industry and society.

The stories begin with a shocking answer to classroom inattention in ‘Teachers Damned to the Pits of Hell’ after which a poor family hungrily await the results of father’s latest addictive session at the pachinko parlour in ‘Fuck Off’.

Many stories take a hard but always off-kilter look at employment and wage earning. ‘Workplace’ deals with a time when Yoshikazu worked as a sign designer’s much-abused assistant and vicariously, cathartically, depicts what the menial wanted most, whereas ‘Wiped Out Workers’ details a plague of selective narcolepsy that grips salarymen and other hapless toilers during their daily travails.

‘Tempest of Love’ addresses the imbalance and inequality of the sexes as a job-enhancing abacus class devolves into a ghastly crime scene, whilst a punter’s obsessive attention to the sanctioned boat races and his crucial bets result in a strange series of events that can only be explained by ‘ESP’…

More uncomfortable sexual tension is dangerously unleashed at the ‘Late Night Party’ provided by a smug boss before the spiralling cost of living sparks civil unrest and deadly consequences in ‘Battles without Honor and Humanity: A Documentary’.

The walk on the weird wild side then concludes with a phantasmagorical deluge of uncanny situations and crises as a worker takes his son for a walk in ‘Salaryman in Hell’

By no means a work of universal appeal, The Pits of Hell provides a stunning and revelatory look at the other side of Japanese comics: one no fan of the medium can afford to miss.
English edition © 2019 Breakdown Press. Translation and essay © 2019 Ryan Holmberg. All rights reserved.

Walking Distance

By Lizzy Stewart (Avery Hill Publishing)
ISBN:978-1-910395-50-9 (HB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Heartwarming and Thought Provoking… 9/10

Assuming you do still think, where do you go and what do you do to get in touch with yourself? I only ask because, in these days of a million and one ways to chemically, digitally functionally and emotionally sedate the mind, one the most effective ways to process information is still a good long walk…

Thirty-something artist Lizzy Stewart lives in London and Shanks’ Pony is not only how she manages city life but is also a physical act which seemingly obsesses her. She even keeps a list of favourite movie walks by a host of female stars that fit all her personal criteria for moments of perfection…

Walking Distance is a meandering meditation on right here, right now, utilising a stunning sequence of painted views of what she sees on her various perambulations – a stunning travelogue of London literally at ground level – wedded to tracts of text graciously sharing her innermost, scattershot thoughts and deliberations on notions that trouble women (and perhaps the odd man or two) today.

All the bugbears trot along: getting by, success and failure, body issues, direction and achievement, growing up and growing old, family pressures, norms of behaviour, unfair expectations, balances of power in gender relationships and what the future holds in store…

Naturally – and shamefully for us men – a large proportion of that menu includes concerns about personal safety and a right to privacy and agency in public. There’s isn’t a woman anywhere who hasn’t had a walk marred at some moment after apprehensively anticipating what a complete stranger in the vicinity might abruptly say or do…

Happily, the grim is balanced by the delightful: ponderings on art and work, a sense of home space and just the sheer joy of observing the fresh and new as well as the comfortingly familiar. There’s even room for intimate views of personal history and opinion, yet the overall progress is always hopeful, tending towards examination rather than hasty judgement or solutions and in the direction the walker chooses…

This beguiling stroll offers a blend of philosophy, anxiety and anticipation, all brainstormed as she – and you, if you can keep up – strides ever onward.

Clearly, walks do anything but clear your head, but can result in beautiful visual ruminations like this one: no glib sound-bite responses, no roles modelled and no solutions, but you can consider this a privileged personal chat while she walks and you don’t.
© Lizzy Stewart, 2019. All rights reserved.

Walking Distance will be published on October 24th 2019 and is available for pre-order now.

The Golden Sheep Book 1

By Kaori Ozaki (Vertical Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-947194-80-9 (PB)

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Moving and Evergreen Family Drama… 9/10

Manga maestro Kaori Ozaki (An Angel Above the Piano, Immortal Rain, The Gods Lie) started her professional comics making at in 1993, aged 15. Since then has she become a byword for smart, compelling, sensitive storytelling, whether in the realms of high-flying fantasy or in more grounded, rationalistic human scaled stories.

Originally published in Japan as Kin no Hitsuji in Kodansha’s Afternoon magazine, The Golden Sheep falls into the latter category: examining bonds of friendship, burdens of family, dreams of success and the eternal youthful drive to escape and get away from the past. The serial began in September 2017 and ran until April 2019.

Childhood friendships are pure and earnest and wholehearted, but as Tsugu Miikura discovers, not always clearheaded or totally open. Growing up in a rural mountain community, she and classmates Sora, Yuushin and Asari swore lifelong fidelity – even burying a time-capsule of their secret wishes for the future in their favourite spot – but when the Miikuras moved to Osaka things changed. Now, six years later, with her dad gone, the large brood have been forced to move back and live with an aunt.

Although on the surface the high school pals are just bigger, there are deeply hidden and constantly growing divisions. Big city girl Tsugu now talks funny and has become a world-class rock guitarist, but doesn’t believe her soul is any different. Nevertheless, she can’t understand what has happened to her besties.

Studious Asari is superficially the same, but shows signs of becoming a really mean and backbiting sneak, whilst manga-obsessed, anime-loving Sora is now sullen, perpetually skips school and has frequent accidents that leave him battered and bruised. The biggest change is valiant Yuushin. Once a noble, honest, champion of the underdog, he’s become a cool, aloof bad boy leading a pack of young thugs and possibly even involved in criminal acts…

As Tsugu attempts to resume her place in the group, the changes they’ve all experienced push her further away from them and even her own family.

When she thwarts a suicide attempt by one of her beloved companions – at huge personal cost – she decides to run away to Tokyo with the despondent survivor. Penniless and without shelter, they skirt the fringes of a sordid world, only to stumble into another shocking surprise to her already-reeling sense of self and worth…

Alternating winning jolly charm with moving glimpses of the crisis besetting Japan’s directionless youth, The Golden Sheep promises to become a classic modern romance and survival testament for Young Adults: a book with lots to say and in a most captivating manner.
© 2018 Kaori Ozaki. All rights reserved.

Bad Gateway

By Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-207-6 (HB)

Simon Hanselmann is a well-travelled cartoonist of Tasmanian origin who has, since 2009, been producing one of the best cartoon strips of all time.

Originally located on his girlmountain.tumblr site, later episodes of this engagingly deceptive, inappropriately pigeon-holed “stoner comedy” Megg & Mogg have popped up in places as varied as Kus, Smoke Signal, Gangbang Bong and assorted minicomics, but can now all be found in a sturdy, full colour archival compilations such as this latest titanic (313 x 212mm) which carries our scurrilous cast to a final crisis point…

Hanselmann’s signature characters were loosely based on childhood memories of British children’s books Meg & Mog (created by Helen Nicoll & Jan Pienkowski and begun in 1972), but warped and filtered through a druggy haze and damaged childhoods. Depression-afflicted teen druggie witch Megg lives with her mean-spirited feline familiar Mogg, but their existence also impacts on sensitive, insecure, affection-starved Owl and violently self-destructive Werewolf Jones

When not confronting or testing each other or hanging with the wrong crowd, they spent most of their time in a haze of self-inflicted ennui or on dope-fuelled junk-food binges in the apartment or in front of the TV. They probably don’t like each or themselves much but dwell in a fug of dangerous co-dependency. Their strange yet oddly compulsive adventures have enthralled a generation of readers: a most improper tribute to a life lived more wryly through chemistry and sarcasm. After a stellar decade of awards and critical acclaim, the ongoing internationally successful series stumbles to a critical point and psychological crux in this latest luxury hardback (and digital) release…

And just in case you were wondering…

This book is packed with drug references, violent sexual imagery and outrageous situations intended to make adults laugh and think.

If the copy above hasn’t clued you in, please be warned that this book uses potentially disturbing images of abuse, sexual intimacy, excess and language commonly used in the privacy of the bedroom, drunken street brawls – and all school playgrounds whenever supervising adults aren’t present – to make its artistic and narrative points.

If the mere thought of all that appals and offends you, read no further and don’t buy it. The rest of us will just have to enjoy some truly astounding cartoon experiences without you.

Lethargically anarchic and cruelly hilarious, the escapades reopen after ‘Previously in Megg, Mogg & Owl’ with 28 Days Later’ as the pharmacologically paralysed and insecure Megg reluctantly abandons malicious, experience-craving Mogg to debase herself even further. It’s time for her Welfare Benefits review and under the new administration she’s going to have to excel if she wants to keep getting money to maintain her current lifestyle.

Hyper-anxious, she also delivers an ultimatum: come what may, Mogg is going to have to get a job…

In the meantime, part-time dealer and full-time patsy Werewolf meets up with a couple of regulars and gets well and truly shafted… again…

With the latest crisis averted for now and all wounds healing, the junkies start looking for stuff to sell but when Megg tries to pawn her ‘Rollerblades’ the unwelcome memories take her down roads she’d rather not acknowledge let alone recognise…

‘Banned’ follows Megg into therapy, but as her extended circle of acquaintances share their own troubles, Mogg finds new ways to amuse himself…

‘The Birdcage’ then finds the friends staging a bizarre intervention for Werewolf, after which Megg makes a major decision in ‘Vibrate’ when her mother sends a message begging for help, precipitating a cross-country jaunt, a re-visitation of past events and a confrontation that is the emotional equivalent of ‘Throwing Rocks at Power-lines’, before some kind of stability is restored through a time-dishonoured ‘Ritual’

Despite surface similarity to some no-harm, no-foul adult situation comedies – and believe me there are outrageous laughs by the bucketful – what predominates here is a strong, frequently overwhelming narrative progression of painful yet beguiling stories which navigate with easy confidence the tightrope between sordid and surreal, hilarity and horror, survival and sinking away.

Dark, affecting and unforgettable, this is a book no lover of truly mature fiction should ignore.
Bad Gateway © 2019 Simon Hanselmann. This edition © 2019 Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.

O Josephine!

By Jason (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-68396-210-6 (HB)
Jason is secretly John Arne Saeterrøy: born in Molde, Norway in 1965 and an overnight international cartoon superstar since 1995 when his first graphic novel Lomma full ay (Pocket Full of Rain) won that year’s Sproing Award (Norway’s biggest comics prize).

He won another Sproing in 2001 for his Mjau Mjau strip and the following year turned almost exclusively to producing graphic novels. Now an established global star, he has garnered numerous major awards from such disparate locales as France, Slovakia and the USA.

Jason’s breadth of interest is capacious and deep: comics, movies, music, high literature, low life, real life and pulp fiction all feature equally with absolutely no inherent sense of hierarchy, and his puckish mixing and matching of such evergreen founts of inspiration always result in a picture-treatise well worth a reader’s time.

A master of short-form illustrated tales, many Jason yarns are released as snappy little albums which are perfect for later inclusion in longer anthology collections such as this one which gathers a quartet of the most recent and very best.

As always, the visual/verbal bon mots unfold in Jason’s beguiling, sparse-dialogued, pantomimic progressions with enchantingly formal page layouts rendered in the familiar, minimalist evolution of Hergé’s Ligne Claire style; solid blacks, thick lines and settings of seductive simplicity. That delight is augmented here by a beguiling palette ranging from stark monochrome to primary yellow duotones…

Available thus far only as a sturdily comforting hardback, the stream of subtle wonderment opens with a suitably understated autobiographical jaunt to the land of Erin and an uneventful but truly mind-blowing progression along ‘The Wicklow Way’. The vacation hikes might be scenic and uneventful, but you’re never alone as long as you’re stuck inside your own head…

With the addition of a jaundiced inky outlook (and employing “yellow journalism” of the most literal kind) ‘L. Cohen: A Life’ then outlines the life and times of the poet, musician and philosopher, with a strong emphasis on whimsical inaccuracy and factual one-upmanship…

Filmic classicism underpins ‘The Diamonds’ as a pair of barely-boiled detectives lose all objectivity as their scrupulous surveillance of a simple family affects their own hidden lives before the low key dramatics slip back into monochrome and into the twilight zone after weary world traveller Napoleon Bonaparte returns to Paris and falls head over shiny heels for infamous exotic dancer Josephine Baker. As with all doomed romances, the path to happiness is rocky, dangerous, and potentially insurmountable, but… c’est l’amour!

Jason’s comic tales are strictly for adults but allow us all to look at the world through wide-open childish eyes, exploring love, loss, life, death, boredom and all aspects of relationship politics without ever descending into mawkishness or simple, easy buffoonery. His buffoonery is always slick and deftly designed for maximum effect…

Jason remains a taste instantly acquired: a creator any true fan of the medium should move to the top of their “Must-Have” list.
All characters, stories, and artwork © 2019 Jason. This edition © Fantagraphics Books, Inc. All rights reserved.