, . . Top Shelf/Eddie Campbell Books, $14.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-9577896-6-1

Campbell, maestro of the offhanded understatement and the distressed ink line, has published a book starring himself that surveys the terrors of middle age. Originally a series of short autobiographical vignettes, the book is both more illuminating and less solipsistic than the subject of male midlife anxiety might suggest. The episodes, which vary from a single page to multiple spreads, depict Campbell going about his daily work as a comic book artist, self-publisher of comics, court sketcher, husband, father, son and friend. Throughout, Campbell establishes himself as a character with wry, self-deprecating humor, even during those sleepless nights when he struggles with the midlife demon (depicted in these pages as a mothlike creature with an extravagantly curved proboscis). The result is a grab bag of highly personal reflections that take as much interest in a blade of grass stuck in his cat's backside as in the effects of Hollywood fame on finances and family life. Domestic pleasures might be the last thing readers would expect from the collaborator/ illustrator of Alan Moore's meticulously plotted and drawn Jack the Ripper epic (and hit Hollywood film) From Hell, but Campbell is more concerned with the behind-the-scenes messiness that goes into telling a good story than with carefully orchestrated coherence. This casual approach to narrative also comes out in the scratchy, improvisational quality of Campbell's drawings. Idiosyncratic and expertly rendered, his art insinuates its way into readers' memories. (Mar.)