by Mimi Pond
(Drawn & Quarterly)
WHEN I QUIT my last restaurant job, I made my then-boyfriend promise that he wouldn't let me romanticize it years down the road. Now—years down the road—my memories of the service industry are indeed starting to take on a nostalgic hue: Yes, the work was hard, but I had so much fun with my coworkers; yes, I smelled like Fryolator and ranch dressing all the time, but the cash tips were great. Mimi Pond's Over Easy definitely didn't help with my little nostalgia problem: In it, Pond documents her stint at an Oakland restaurant called the Imperial Café, where she worked as an art-school dropout in the '70s. Her coworkers were a loveable band of artists and misfits; drugs were plentiful, and so were ill-advised hookups with customers and fellow staffers. (So, it was a restaurant job, basically.) Over Easy can be a bit confusing, especially when it comes to keeping track of the rotating cast and their various entanglements. But Pond's reflections on restaurant work temper sentimentality with a good dose of potty-mouthed kitchen humor. (She also really hates hippies, which is funny.) The book's a sweet little "fictionalized memoir" about how working at the restaurant helped her to gain confidence, experience, and opened her eyes to the world's possibilities. ALISON HALLETT
Afterlife with Archie, Book One
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla
(Archie Comic Publications)
THE FIRST PAGE welcomes you back to your childhood. The second page kills it off with blood and sadness—crown-topped Jughead Jones weeping on a doorstop, his best friend and pet, Hot Dog, dead in his arms. Clearly, this isn't the Archie comic you remember from the drugstore aisle.
Afterlife with Archie is a dark, terrific, and surprisingly heart-tugging reimagining that pits Archie & the gang against the apocalypse. Writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla turn the idyllic world of Riverdale on its putrefied ear with this paperback collection of the first five issues. The sacred cows of Archie, Betty, and Veronica get masterfully sliced and diced without maiming their loveable traits, all while giving them never-before-seen depth. Veronica has heart under that cutting rich-girl veneer, Archie isn't just a dumbass horndog, and the subtext gets a lot less subtexty. (Hello, Cheryl and Jason Blossom incest subplot!) Afterlife with Archie is a tense and beautifully drawn comic that explores what it means to grow up and face the monsters of adulthood, metaphorically and otherwise. As Archie's dad says, it's a time for Archie and his friends to "learn that death's a part of life, even their own." COURTNEY FERGUSON
by Fabien Vehlmann, Kerascoët
(Drawn & Quarterly)
A GORGEOUSLY DARK fairy tale for grownups (or really morbid kids), Beautiful Darkness captures, in absolutely lovely watercolors by husband-and-wife artist duo Kerascoët, the bloody, brutal exploits of a band of adorable pixies and sprites.
The book opens on a fairy princess as she breathlessly prepares to meet with her prince; soon goop begins to drip from the ceilings, trapping the princess in an oozy pink maze. For a few panels, it's not clear what's happening—and then the princess tumbles out of a dead girl's ear.
The girl's body is spread-eagle on a forest floor; tiny creatures pour out of her eyes and nose, too, childlike sprites swarming her corpse Lilliputian-style. The body, as it decomposes, provides a home base for the princess and her friends, whose alliances grow ever more fleeting and self-serving. Betrayals are savage, conflicts are gruesome, and death comes for even the cutest characters. Like I said: dark. AH
It Never Happened Again
by Sam Alden
WHEN YOU first open It Never Happened Again, the new book from former Portlander Sam Alden, you'd be forgiven for thinking that his art is childlike, even offputtingly sketchy and simple. Look again. Yes, the art in the book's first story, "Hawaii 1997," is rough—but it's also almost infuriatingly evocative. A panel might consist solely of a sketch of a small boy standing on a white plain, footprints chicken scratched behind him to let us know he's walking on sand, but the way the boy is holding his hands and the downward set of his mouth speak volumes. It Never Happened Again contains two stories: In the first, a lonely boy makes a friend while his family's on vacation in Hawaii; in the second, which is more detailed (and proves that Alden is fully capable of creating more detailed, realistic works, when he wants to), a lonely woman travels to Japan because she's convinced herself that she'll find the happiness there that she hasn't found at home. Both are simple stories about moments that resonated with sad people, and Alden tells them with crushing economy and grace. (For a taste of Alden's work, check out Eighth Grade, which is published entirely online, or his very active Tumblr.) AH