cover image Below Ambition

Below Ambition

Simon Hanselmann. Fantagraphics, $29.99 (168p) ISBN 978-1-68396-549-7

Antisocial antics meet punk-rock provocation in this latest collection of down-and-dirty transgressions from Eisner-winning comics provocateur Hanselmann (Crisis Zone). His louche menagerie of fantastical creatures act more like sailors on shore leave than fairy tale protagonists. The seven sordid stories are primarily tales of a legendarily horrible band, Horse Mania, whose gigs are tantamount to audience assault. Its two members, hyperaggressive Werewolf Jones and the more laid-back witch Megg, occasionally bat at their keyboards but largely focus on drinking sessions and heckling other performers. Noting in only semi-tongue-in-cheek fashion that he is “whittling down the fanbase,” Hanselmann takes a more aggressive and confrontational mode in these pages than the downbeat slacker vibes of his earlier volumes. He plays up each character’s unpleasant sides, especially Jones’s G.G. Allin–like love of the grotesque and tendency for pugnacious confrontations. It’s a highly self-conscious framing, reflected in Megg’s joyful response to getting a drink thrown in her face by an audience member, “Thank you! You’ve made our night!” But the mood is as raw as the rather tossed-off art. No matter how hard he might try to shake them, Hanselmann certainly still has fans, who will add this to their row of his odd, bawdy titles. (Aug.)