It’s a safe bet that we’ve all been there — somebody’s having a party at their place, and your ex might be there, mutual friends being what they are and all that. There’s no one you’re more terrified of seeing on the one hand, but there’s no one you’re dying to see more on the other. What’s a forlorn “20-something” to do — besides drink to excess, of course?
Welcome to the familiar world of Lauren Monger’s Sleepwalking, a frankly amazing full-color mini originally published by an outfit called Space Face Books in 2015 and re-printed in a more widely-available edition of 2000 by Silver Sprocket last year. And as far as “work deserving of a bigger audience” goes, this one was right at the top of the list for some time, so I’m glad that such a situation has finally come to pass.
Centered on a large ensemble cast of anthropomorphic animals ranging from rats to skunks to chipmunks to raccoons to everything in between — all of whom loosely fit into what we at least used to think of as the “hipster” or “slacker” model, but who now we more generally recognize simply (and accurately) as being young people (even if these aren’t, strictly speaking, people) — the revolving door of personal drama, loud-ass house shows, nights out, and days in that Monger zeroes in on with a kind of sympathetic ruthlessness really dragged me back 20 years and put me “right there” in a way that too few books concerned with this sort of subject matter (and who are we kidding? There are lots of them) have managed to do. There is a definite air of lived experience to this, and I think that’s the crucial difference. Hell, for all I know Monger’s life may be very much like this right now, so palpable is the sense of authenticity from first page to last.
And as anyone who’s ever been in the early-to-mid twenties and at loose ends in life can tell you, ennui and lethargy are constant companions — and it is, in fact, the opportunity to temporarily shed oneself of the burden of either or both that leads to lots of questionable decision-making. Doing something dumb is, after all, more interesting than doing nothing, and this idea that young adults flit from one bad decision to another simply because they don’t know any better is utter nonsense. Most do it just, ya know, to have something to do. I’m getting a little bit far afield here, it’s true, but honestly — not by much. Monger has produced a short, breezy, highly relatable work that gently explores all these aspects of life at a certain age, as part of a certain social milieu.
The art’s just plain sublime, too. Well-rendered figures moving in and out of, or simply within, appropriately dingy domiciles, all the panels are slathered with an emotive layer of well-chosen watercolors that accentuate the overall “blah” mood without either romanticizing it or downplaying its squalor. There’s a delicacy to it all, sure, but it never crosses the threshold into “overly precious” or “cloying” territory. It flows with the narrative expertly, no question, but also richly rewards time spent examining it.
All told this is an unassuming work on its face, but it’s one that achieves probably more than even Monger set out to do with it. I wasn’t just impressed with this comic, I was mightily impressed with it — and I have a strong feeling that you will be, too.
Sleepwalking is available for $5.00 directly from Silver Sprocket at https://store.silversprocket.net/products/lauren-monger-sleepwalking
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