cover image Couch Tag

Couch Tag

Jesse Reklaw. Fantagraphics, $26.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-60699-676-8

In his first full-length work in a career filled with shorter comics, Reklaw vaults to the top rank of American graphic memoirists. This looping and circular autobiography about his family, youth, and early career, in five parts, takes the mundane and gives it a part-comic, part-tragic twist. %E2%80%9CThirteen Cats%E2%80%9D (previously published in Best American Comics) is like an alternate history of childhood told through the Reklaw family%E2%80%99s many troubled, short-lived felines. Hints of darker problems crop up in %E2%80%9CThe Stacked Deck%E2%80%9D and %E2%80%9CLessoned,%E2%80%9D where Reklaw uses card games and a glossary (featuring entries such as %E2%80%9CMelancholic%E2%80%9D and %E2%80%9CPhlegmatic%E2%80%9D) as lenses through which to view the tangle of mental problems and bickering that flicker through his family history. %E2%80%9CThe Fred Robinson Story%E2%80%9D is the book%E2%80%99s midpoint, and notably its most jovial section, describing the story of an in-joke between Reklaw and his best friend, about the two of them stalking a stranger%E2%80%94they published a fake newsletter and comic series about a fictional %E2%80%9CFred Robinson%E2%80%9D%E2%80%94while chronicling the rise and eventual decline of that friendship. Reklaw%E2%80%99s flowing gray-wash art beautifully captures both the joys of early creativity and the blas%C3%A9 weirdness of childhood, where dark traumas can whip past as though they%E2%80%99re nothing, before circling back with an unexpected vengeance. (Dec.)