cover image Crashpad


Gary Panter. Fantagraphics, $39.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-68396-416-2

This road-trip fantasia from underground psychedelia artist Panter (the Jimbo series) flips the script on the classic counterculture story of hippies just wanna have fun. The work opens with lavishly drawn stream-of-consciousness riffs on imploding cross-dimensional realities. Beasts speak, robots paint, and dinosaurs shoot light beams out of their hamsa-like heads while blissed-out spiritual travelers drop koans of infallible dream logic (“Art tries to grasp and pass on the cosmic order”). Panter follows that we-are-one vision with a scuzzier story about a band of catlike hippies buzzing on a pharmacopeia of mind-melting drugs. After getting a batch of acid from a Yeti-styled dealer, they head into the desert to further obliterate their senses while being pursued by furious redneck Big Jim. Here, Panter’s loopy yet disciplined artistic approach yields dividends, as the earlier section’s free-form psychedelia creeps back in while remaining yoked to a basic realism, even as language itself breaks down (“Can we soon be home again alive?”). Panter then snaps it all together with an unexpected coda that celebrates “the utopian youth hippie flower-child movement” before lacerating how it “became a dancing bear.” Panter’s painstakingly detailed acid-trip vision offers art comics heads an immersive rabbit-hole experience and sneaky satire on a navel-gazing subculture. (Feb.)