Dog Biscuits

Alex Graham. Fantagraphics, $34.99 (408p) ISBN 978-1-68396-552-7

Many artists re-channeled their creativity during the Covid-related lockdowns, but few managed it with as much fiery elan and grace as Graham. Serialized as a daily webcomic on Instagram, this Seattle-set graphic novel takes place over a few days as a love triangle breaks an already-fragile hipster ecosystem. Gussy is a middle-aged ex-painter now running a yuppie dog treat café (sample offering: Rosemary cracked pepper balsamic buttermilk) and lusting after his younger employee, Rosie. Though Rosie is keen on Gussy, her attention is drawn more acutely to her roommate, Hissy, a trust-fund bisexual dabbler in social justice. While of different generations, Rosie and Gussy seem of the same neurotic mold, spinning in self-recriminating spirals while Hissy blithely stirs trouble. The hothouse pandemic atmosphere amplifies the trio’s combustible situation, as does Graham’s art: her characters are drawn with animal heads affixed to human torsos, exaggerated expressions, and ropy limbs, and have a knack for self-destruction. Occasionally X-rated relationship drama gets balanced with fantastical elements (Hissy being the son of actor Jennifer Love Hewitt, for example). Graham channels summer 2020’s rage with a sharp eye: cops appear clownishly sadistic, protestors refuse to admit the violence happening in front of them. It’s a messy comedy of errors for readers who embrace the social media chaos of Matt Furie but appreciate Graham’s greater nuance. (May)