cover image Lackadaisy


Tracy J. Butler. Iron Circus, $20 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-63899-103-8

Butler’s screwball adventure debut, based on her long-running popular anthropomorphic webcomic, opens as if it were the 10th volume in the series, not the first. Set in a Prohibition-era St. Louis populated by cats, the backstory involves warring gangs of bootleggers. The eponymous speakeasy, run by the widowed Miss Mitzi May, sits at center of a swirling battle for booze-slinging territorial rights. When Rocky Rickaby, fiddle player in the bar’s house jazz band (and Miss Mitzi’s operative), runs afoul of rivals, the conflict escalates—though there’s still plenty of time for flirtations between fight scenes. Butler’s animation background shines through the handsome character designs, reminiscent of the similarly feline Blacksad. Along with voluble trouble-magnet Rocky, other colorful characters include his cousin Freckle, a seemingly innocent lad who turns out to be a secret weapon, and Miss Mitzi herself, a smart businesswoman who’s always ready with a trenchant observation. Occasionally, the dense layouts overwhelm: the sepia tone can make it hard to distinguish between characters, and the sheer volume of allusions, wordplay, and painstaking historical detail demands close reading on every page. Still, this immersive Jazz Age tale offers a rollicking mix of gunplay, quips, and romance. (Feb.)