cover image Moms


Yeong-shin Ma, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (372p) ISBN 978-1-77-046400-1

While billed as a comedic tribute to Ma’s mother, sometimes it’s hard to tell if Ma’s English-language debut is laughing with or at his deluded cast. Drawn in a bare-bones style reminiscent of a manhwa-ized Chester Brown, this deadpan ensemble dramedy follows a group of middle-aged Korean women who toil at menial jobs while texting, trysting, and fussing over their shiftless lovers with the energetic abandon normally associated with people their own grown children’s age. Lee Soyeon has survived a bad marriage to a gambling addict and raising three kids, only to be saddled with bad boyfriend Jongseok, a philandering waiter with a drinking problem. Jongseok doesn’t hide for long that he’s also dating a wealthier woman, a revelation which leads to endless dithering from Soyeon about breaking up with him, and even a street fight. Soyeon’s BFFs are little better off: Yeonsun throws herself at a series of abusive men; Yeonjeong meets a hottie at the gym but he turns out to be gay; and so on. A subplot about starting a workplace union sparks some light in the grubbiness. But, while the moms’ constant reversals on their declarations they’re done with the dating game may be recognizable for readers, at over 300 pages, things tend to drag on, and the narrative feels as repetitive as Soyeon’s declaration that her “standards are high.” (Aug.)