Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970–2013

M. K. Brown, Author
M.K. Brown. Fantagraphics, $35.99 (248 p) ISBN 978-1-60699-708-6
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Beautiful and bizarre, Brown’s quietly subversive works attack the lazy banality of reality as we think we know it. A presidential candidate, for example, eats a live rat during a whistle-stop campaign appearance; his staff is relieved that no one in the audience seems to notice. A detailed, realistic-looking diagram of a grasshopper introduces a panel observing that “in some parts of the world insects are used for transportation.” When the hostess of an afternoon brunch is sucked out of the house by an invisible force, “the strange part” is that she turns in mid-air, strikes a Superman pose, and flies away. In short, situations and attitudes that look comfortably routine can become disturbingly hilarious—and hilariously disturbing. Brown has perfect control of her unpredictably surreal art and layout, and her vivid watercolor illustrations look especially lovely, until one notices how the convincingly-rendered objects are twisting into weird shapes. An excellent, important collection. (Feb.)
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