This was a pretty solid week of reading, with short graphic novels being something of a running theme —
I Am Not Okay With This is the latest release from Charles Forsman, and a much-hyped one at that, being something of a conceptual and thematic follow-up to The End Of The Fucking World, in that both works focus on the interior thought processes, and external actions, of alienated youth. Our protagonist this time out, an Olive Oyl doppleganger named Sydney, ups the ante in that she possesses obliquely-defined mental powers, but it’s her home and social lives (her father recently passed away from an apparent suicide, she has unrequited romantic feelings for her slightly older best friend, her sexuality seems either fluid or unresolved) that are of far more interest, and her “superhuman” abilities actually function as something of an unnecessary crutch in the scheme of things.
Which isn’t to say that they don’t play a crucial role in a few scenes, of course — especially at the end — but every time they’re trotted out you honestly have to wonder whether or not Forsman’s decision to include them in the proceedings actually lessens the impact of his story a bit, since using a gun or somesuch would have provided a far more powerful, and relatable, punch (okay, shot) to the gut. I’m not saying this represents a “deal-breaker” or anything of the sort, never fear, but read it with this in mind and see if you don’t agree with me — and for the record, I think reading it is something you absolutely should do, as Forsman’s handle on young people adrift both in the world and in relation to themselves is still second to none, and his cartooning skills are only sharpening and refining themselves with each successive project. Even with one semi-major strike against it, then, this is still fifteen bucks (from Fantagraphics or your LCS, less if you find it elsewhere) well spent.
Fifteen bucks is also the price of admission for Retrofit/Big Planet’s new English-language reissue of Yuichi Yokoyama’s 2015 book Iceland, and to call this a fascinating study in contrasts is surely an understatement, as this “neo-manga” tale juxtaposes languid pacing and sparse, economical dialogue with breakneck, surreal imagery. Most of the central characters in this search-and-rescue yarn set in frozen northern climes were apparently introduced in an earlier Yokoyama comic, but it doesn’t really matter as you’re plunged in at the deep end trying to find a way to get your head above water regardless of whether or not you “know” who these people are.
Now, that’s no small task in a world this kinetic and stylized, but it definitely makes for a heady, if disorienting, reading experience, and Yokoyama’s mastery of the relationship between space, sound and imagery — and the sense of time and its passage these three elements create on the page — is consistently breathtaking. And trust me when I say that’s not a term I use lightly. It may take a few pass-throughs before you fully absorb everything that’s happening in this book, but Yokoyama richly rewards the time you invest engaging with his singular, visionary material.
While we’re on the subject of reissued works — and reissued 2015 works at that — Uncivilized Books has just rolled a new, squarebound edition of Kevin Czap’s Futchi Perf off the presses, and this “sub-Utopian” tale of a highly diverse, forward-thinking future iteration of Cleveland is definitely worth getting lost in. These loosely-connected vignettes are exploding with precisely the sort of energy that one would expect from a cultural revolution that begins in a queer-friendly basement punk show and spills out, memetically, into all aspects of daily life, and Czap’s idiosyncratic, vibrant cartooning style is probably the only way to effectively communicate the youthful, free-wheeling ethos of his worldview. Optimistic without being naive, starry-eyed without being blinding, this is a book like none ever imagined before, and will leave you feeling a heck of a lot better about youth culture than you probably thought possible — even (hell, maybe especially) if you’re part of it. Fork over your $15.95 and prepare to be impressed. Available at http://www.uncivilizedbooks.com/comics/futchi_perf.html
On the opposite end of the optimism spectrum we’ve got Sean Knickerboker’s debut graphic novel, Killbuck. This coming-of-age tale involving a trio of friends living in an impoverished rural community is a smart and heartfelt examination of the different roads people take when presented with similar life situations, and is remarkably free of both judgment and sentiment, even though neither would feel out of place. Knickerbocker’s dialogue is concise and authentic, his illustrations raw and expressive, and his palette of blacks, whites, blues, and grays well-considered and emotive. This is one cartoonist very much worth keeping an eye on, as he displays tremendous confidence and visual storytelling skill for a a guy only now coming into his own. Get yourself a copy by sending ten bucks to http://onepercentpress.bigcartel.com/product/sean-knickerbocker-killbuck-graphic-novel
And that should about do it for now. More interesting stuff is one the way to yours truly as we speak, so let’s meet up again in seven days to hash it all over. See you then!