cover image Bttm Fdrs

Bttm Fdrs

Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-68396-206-9

This sharply observed satire stars a monstrous physical manifestation born of the evils of racism, gentrification, and cultural appropriation. When Darla, an unemployed African-American art school student, moves into a windowless former factory in the Bottomyards, a notoriously dangerous section of Chicago’s South Side, she begins to see and hear disquieting things. Her upper-class white pal, Cynthia, and Hadley, a fashion director, are initially afraid to visit (“That part of town is like a war-zone!”) but yet are attracted by the area’s “authenticity,” for which Darla calls Cynthia out: “You’re trying to use me and my scary black neighborhood to look cool.” Meanwhile, the terror lurking within Bottomyards’s secret passages has awakened, and an atmosphere of subtle menace builds into full-out chaos and body horror. Daniels (Upgrade Soul) manages to locate the humanity in even his least sympathetic characters while peppering the narrative with well-honed jabs at art school jargon and the frequent racial biases of mass media (exemplified here by the local media framing the breaking story as Cynthia’s rather than Darla’s). Passmore (Your Black Friend), a skilled visual stylist with a particularly fine, bright palette, ably renders the humor in the horror and the horror in the humor (the story’s title has a nasty double meaning). The book pokes fun at the zeitgeist with a sharp stick in a manner reminiscent of Jordan Peele’s film Get Out. [em](June) [/em]