Huntington, West Virginia 'On the Fly'

Harvey Pekar, Author, Summer McClinton, Illustrator
Harvey Pekar and Summer McClinton. Villard, $19.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-345-49941-7
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One of the final books written by the late Pekar, this volume collects five short pieces, mostly relating to a trip he made to West Virginia for a speaking engagement at a book festival: a series of anecdotes from an eccentric, dreadlocked limo driver; a tale about an unsuccessful attempt by one of Pekar's acquaintances to make a vintage diner successful in Cleveland; and so on. At his best, Pekar could find the stuff of engaging comics in the small routines and oddities of the everyday, and there's some potentially interesting oral history here—although not a lot of it cries out for visual interpretation, since most of these stories consist of expository dialogue that describes exactly what we see in McClinton's drawings. But the book falls flat when Pekar turns his focus away from his interviewees and onto himself, including endless, tedious, very familiar scenes in which he's talking on the phone, describing his career, and carping about money. This is far from Pekar's strongest work, and McClinton's artwork doesn't help much: her stylized textures and stripped-down renderings mesh uncomfortably with the photo-reference approach to drawing that often formed the basis of Pekar's comics. (Apr.)
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