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Henchgirl

Kristen Gudsnuk. Dark Horse, $17.99 trade paper (319p) ISBN 978-1-50670-144-8

If the cast of Girls found themselves in the Marvel universe, you’d have something like this debut graphic novel. Always quirky, occasionally touching, and surprisingly dark, this book follows Mary Posa, a superpower-less disappointment to her superhero parents, who works as a henchgirl for super- villain Monsieur Butterfly. While Mary’s concerns and anxieties will be familiar to any young 20-something struggling to get by—making rent, dealing with relationships and workplace friction—it all happens against the backdrop of a completely ridiculous world filled with time travel, astral projection, and strange superpowers, like the ability to spontaneously produce carrots. The first few issues of Henchgirl, drawn in a charming style somewhere between Scott Pilgrim and Steven Universe, have a delightful and spontaneous energy, but as the series progresses, Gudsnuk begins stitching her ideas into a narrative and things slow down a bit from the sparkling opening. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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I Feel Bad. All Day. Every Day. About Everything.

Orli Auslander. Blue Rider, $20 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1511-5

Auslander feels bad about a lot of familiar things: “I’m high-maintenance.... I lie to my kids.... I only eat the pie crust.” In a series of scribbly one-panel cartoons, she shares her neuroses about marriage, child rearing, parents, religion, sex, and on and on. Many are universal—find a parent who hasn’t used a bathroom break to hide from the kids—but the more interesting are specific to Auslander’s life as a woman of Middle Eastern Jewish background, sparring with a disapproving, sexist father (her fault, she says) and a brother who’s been born again as a Hasidic fundamentalist (also her fault). Also perceptive are the side-by-side cartoons revealing the no-win situations she sets up for herself, such as feeling guilty both for making and not making the kids’ birthday cakes from scratch. There are shining moments, but this type of cartoon confessional has been done better many times before, and Auslander’s shaky artwork doesn’t add much. She shouldn’t feel bad about it, though. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Fante Bukowski Two

Noah Van Sciver. Fantagraphics, $14.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-68396-001-0

This sequel to Van Sciver’s 2015 graphic novel about a lazy, untalented ,but still egotistical wannabe writer finds Bukowski one year later, slumming around Cleveland, home to his literary heroes, from whom he takes his name. Bereft of any real options, Bukowski finds his money dwindling, his only friend a prostitute who doesn’t like him very much, his only home a sleazy motel, and his only writing opportunity a homemade poetry zine he tries to sell on the street. Van Sciver juxtaposes this misfortune with the literary success of Bukowski’s old girlfriend, Audrey Catron, which brings her different troubles. Van Sciver’s portrayal of the writers isn’t exactly sympathetic, but it is on target, particularly when they descend into self-reverential playacting and pile on petty purity judgments towards each other’s career choices. And Van Sciver doesn’t exempt himself, appearing as Audrey’s mopey, coattail-riding, selfish boyfriend. The take-no-prisoners satire ends up being surprisingly sweet, and Van Sciver’s depictions of Cleveland offer a romanticism that might even align with how Bukowski sees his surroundings. (May)

Reviewed on 03/17/2017 | Details & Permalink

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