This graphic novel proves a pleasant surprise, as the well-worn narrative of the self-referential comic artist riddled with professional anxiety gets an entertainingly knotty and acidly funny working over by the creator of How to Survive in the North.
Inside the framing device of depicting himself as a woeful young artist who volleys from catatonic depression to pretentious rambling, Healy slots in stories-within-stories that he has created to stave off his terminal boredom and anxiety—and to win another award. “I’m washed up, I’ve become irrelevant,” declares the artist at age 26, and hearkens back to a moment of glory when his work was recognized. The comedic first piece follows a once-feted film director given a remarkable comeback opportunity, only to be saddled with adapting an impenetrably obscure novel that by coincidence her daughter is currently reading and hating in high school. In other stories, the artist is literally stalked by his own shadow and interrupted as he tries to create a comic featuring an artist and musician, which quickly spirals into a pit of self-doubt (“Is it about proving your dad wrong?”). Healy’s tight panels are frequently broken up by larger and more simplistic spreads that still retain a certain claustrophobia. While there’s not much plot momentum, the tongue-in-cheek humor accumulates into a clever and curiously haunting book. (July)