cover image Rooftop Stew

Rooftop Stew

Max Clotfelter. Birdcage Bottom, $12 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-982-65958-8

Mini-comics stalwart Clotfelter’s trade debut proffers a potent variety of short stories that embrace the grotesque aesthetic of underground comics while also revealing his own personal traumas. Working in an almost suffocating drawing style that emphasizes cross-hatching, comically distorted figures, and dense blacks, Clotfelter alternates between fiction and reality. His absurdly tragic, misshapen Redeye character opens the volume, in “Redeye Lives Más,” in which he’s forced by his violent, drug-addicted parents to sell his baby sister. Clotfelter follows that with “Chasing Tail with Pappy,” a true story in which Clotfelter and his father go out to cut the tail off of a dead raccoon. These opening salvos set the tone for a trippy barrage of sordid yet somehow funny tales about poverty, neglect, abuse, freaks, desperate circumstances, drugs, and poor choices. Throughout, Clotfelter references his rural Southern roots and current urban life, with episodes such as “Country Cousin Hal Smokes P.C.P.” spotlighting both worlds. Clotfelter stays true to the extremes of his aesthetic while also seeming self-aware of the complicated influences of the underground comix movement. This is a yawp of a book that highlights Clotfelter’s willingness to confront his demons head-on and turn them into visceral and emotionally affecting art. [em](Sept.) [/em]