cover image Nineteen


Ancco, trans. from the Korean by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, $21.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-77046-410-0

Ancco (Bad Friends) shows off her narrative range in this gritty collection of short comics. In episodes documenting young, contemporary Korean life, a high school student juggles exam prep while tending to her alcoholic mother; a young woman tries to connect with her isolated grandmother; and friends on a New Year’s bar crawl gossip about a homeless woman. “Nineteen,” the longest piece in the collection, homes in on Ancco’s favorite subject, rowdy teenage girls, as they smoke, drink, draw smutty comics, hang out in an abandoned house, and privately worry about their futures. Another powerful piece, “The Life,” dramatizes an anonymous online post by a young man living with HIV. Between these scenarios, Ancco sprinkles loosely inked autobiographical shorts in which she learns the guitar, feeds stray dogs, and gives her boyfriend a disastrous haircut. Her rambling, lived-in-looking city streets and scowling, exaggerated, faintly grotesque characters recall the art of North American indie cartoonists like Julie Doucet and Hellen Jo, but with a sensibility wholly of her own place and time. “I don’t know who the weirdo is—me or everyone else,” says one of her characters, summing up the mixture of rebellion, cynicism and wonder that permeates her work. Fans of smart YA drama and iconoclastic autobio will want to venture into Ancco’s broody imagination. (Sept.)