cover image Monica


Daniel Clowes. Fantagraphics, $30 (106p) ISBN 978-1-68396-882-5

This eloquent end-times tale about a woman’s search for herself takes its time winding up to terror. The first full-length graphic novel from Clowes since 2016’s Patience offers an episodic and fantastical stitching together of nine stories stretching from the 1960s to the present day. Though ranging in subject matter from the Vietnam War (“Foxhole”) to the emptiness of girlboss triumph (“Success”) and the pomposity of Lovecraftian horror (“The Glow Infernal”), each is threaded to the title character, whose mother abandoned her as a young girl and who has since been chased by anxieties and hauntings. Clowes’s awkward, grief-stricken characters, starkly shadowed art, and EC Comics–esque coloring casts everything as a pulp nightmare—even the most sylvan scene carries the potential for unholy creatures to rise out of the earth. The horror is often suggested rather than visualized, most of it generated by Monica’s origin story—mother Penny falls in with hippies and leaves her semi-feral daughter to watch “an endless cascade of hirsute suitors and freaky flatmates”—which reads like a Joan Didion cautionary tale about the price of freedom. Clowes’s vision of an unmoored America is replete with lost souls facing seemingly mundane ennui (“I really do wish I could be more like the person I’m pretending to be,” Monica says) that insidiously pivots to horror (murder, a cult, a dead grandfather talking through a transistor radio, a possible apocalypse). Lucky new initiates to Clowes will want to dive into his backlist after this unnerving introduction to his oeuvre; for fans, it’s a must-have. (Oct.)