The Winner

Karl Stevens. Retrofit, $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-940398-74-7
As the sun sets over a jagged, sumptuously illustrated coastline, Stevens (Guilty) asks his wife, “Am I a painter or am I a cartoonist?” He doesn’t get any kind of definitive answer, and neither does the reader of this amorphous but striking collection of autobiographical vignettes (punctuated by the occasional flight of surrealist, pulp-genre fancy). With little plot, an unstructured series of recurring narrative themes and visual motifs plays out against the backdrop of the author’s everyday life. Stevens renders these random moments with exquisite attention to detail, revealing the hidden profundities nestled inside seemingly mundane events. Stevens’s generously painted artwork stands in stark contrast to his bitter prose. He displays a caustic disdain for the “non-creative class,” but he also has choice words for everyone from “sellout” landscape artists to suburbanites and even himself—especially himself. Only Alex, Stevens’s wife and muse, is spared his acerbic wit; her beauty inspires him. Graphic memoirs by misanthropic cartoonists are common enough to be cliché, but the moving love story at the heart of Steven’s work, and his outstanding artwork, transform this one into a truly special find. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2018
Release date: 05/01/2018
Genre: Comics
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