cover image How to Be Happy

How to Be Happy

Eleanor Davis . Fantagraphics, $24.99 (145p) ISBN 978-1-60699-740-6

The excellence and variety of the art in this short comics story collection is matched only by the painful incisiveness of the stories, most circling around attempts both foolish and sincere to find happiness. Some of Davis's art styles are reminiscent of her children's books (Secret Science Alliance, Stinky)%E2%80%94simple supple black and white line drawings%E2%80%94others resemble Little Golden Books, bright blocks of colors and button nosed characters, but only as if written by Raymond Carver. In "In Our Eden," a bunch of back to nature enthusiasts rebel against a delusional ex-bass pro shop manager who spouts trendy bromides about the paleo diet while fashioning himself as the new Adam. In the futuristic "Nita Goes Home," the juxtapositions are more complex, as a woman who lives in an artificial dome where plants still grow has to return to Earth%E2%80%94 a toxic, polluted megacity%E2%80%94when her father is dying. In many stories, happiness is projected on outside forces, a new baby, a lover, yoga, but the answers are rarely that simple and usually backfire horribly, as in "No Tears, No Sorrow," where a woman's emotional breakthrough proves all too complete. A powerful collection that resonates with all the ills, real and imagined, of our modern life. (Aug.)