Tessa Brunton is the Bay Area cartoonist behind In the Tall Grass, a series of autobiographical comics about topics including but not limited to living as a twentysomething with the Epstein-Barr virus, unicorn hunting, and fending off home invaders in Piedmont, California. Initially, she impresses with her almost vise-like grip on depicting turn-of-the-century T-shirt fashion. Then it's her intriguingly detailed but noticeably self-taught linework. Then her strong, clear story pacing and likeable characters.
Brunton's latest work, Passage, tells the bizarre yet tender tale of her brother's coming-of-age/manhood ceremony. Their parents, unencumbered by tradition, create a spectacle of grab-bag philosophical and religious symbols: Real apron strings are cut. Her father's friends stalk around in multicolored robes and carnival masks. Mothers flail dramatically, and much to her brother's horror a youngster is buried alive.
The ominous, humorous tone rings true, and Brunton goes on to use her brother's experience to explore her own transition from childhood and adulthood. Did she bloom into womanhood during a uterus exploration class? Did she wake up a woman after a bath?