cover image Blood and Drugs

Blood and Drugs

Lance Ward. Birdcage Bottom, $15 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-0-9826595-9-5

Boasting just the right amount of pugilistic attitude, this chronicle of a down-and-out comic book artist from Ward (Kmart Shoes) plays with addiction-drama tropes. Buster is a shambling, bearded fireplug of a recovering addict who spends his time maundering around Minneapolis cursing his bad luck, flying into rages, and trying to stay clean. A self-proclaimed famous cartoonist, he relays in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings how an accident ruined his drawing hand, and he graduated from painkillers to heroin, lost everything (“The wife and kids gave up on me long ago, so I didn’t have anyone to guilt or shame me into sobriety”), and now lives in a group home with a depressed gender-transitioning roommate. Haunted by the possibility that his stab at fame—a scuzzy-looking comic-within-a-comic—has somehow cursed him, Buster stumbles from bad luck to good fortune while stewing in self-pity over 12 chapters titled after the 12 steps of recovery. Rendered in heavy black brush strokes and red slashes, as though the page itself is being attacked, the story is dashed with surreal violence, sloppy parodies (including of Calvin & Hobbes and Charlie Brown), and the odd bit of grace. Though somewhat unfinished-feeling, this slice of gutterpunk Midwestern Louis-Ferdinand Céline delivers an unmistakably raw integrity. (Sept.)