Here are three bite-sized reviews of some shorter books from the infinite to-read pile in my house. Keep an eye out for more round-up reviews as our small press coverage expands!
Lovers in the Garden
Retrofit/Big Planet Comics
Anya Davidson’s retro style is the star of in Lovers in the Garden, with bright colors and thick lines. What she gains in style and particularity, she loses in exactness; some of the more simplified facial expressions become too exaggerated, not quite matching the mood on the page. The coloring, however, is exquisite; black hair contains a multitude of hues as it moves in the light. The story of Lovers in the Garden is a sort of ode to post-Vietnam action cinema, with crime bosses, art dealings, flashbacks, drugs, and an undercover reporter. The characters teeter between archetypes and archetype deconstructions. Each has a clear and devastating flaw, and the story is a riff on convoluted crime dramas, never quite elevating itself from its source materials. But it’s a good romp and a primary colored visual feast.
Goda Trakumaite, et. al.
Goda Trakumaite wants to get into the nitty gritty of body problems, none too personal and none too gross. This zine (which I picked up at DC Zinefest) is big and bold, and Trakumaite goes into detail about gynecologist visits and weird uterus stuff. The zine is imbued with the kind humor that comes about when telling your friends about a particular disaster in your life in hindsight. Loosely focused on IUDs, this issue also includes an illustrated history of the Dalkon Shield, the dangerous IUD that led to its plummeting popularity in the States. Trakumaite also has an open call for other people’s weird body stories, and she illustrates stories from her friends, as well, including asides about drawing her friend having sex and whether or not that’s weird or cool. I need to add a caveat: I do think Trakumaite and her friends might have an unusually high rate of issues from IUDs. It also focuses on cis women’s issues, though the language never struck me as being exclusionary. But if you’ve had uterus troubles, this zine is a cute and relatable read.
Retrofit/Big Planet Comics
There is real beauty in the deceptively simple illustrations in Libby’s Dad, which straddle the line between child-like, cruder sketches to delicate line work and careful colors. The story is simple: girls at a sleepover trading gossip and nail polish. It reminded me a little of I Thought You Hated Me, only in the sense that it was not afraid to let girls’ friendships be complex in a way that is rarely seen. It’s incredibly evocative. If you’ve ever spent a lazy weekend with your best friends, you’ll recognize the dynamics swimming beneath the surface of these friendships. They whisper about Libby’s dad. Libby’s parents have gotten divorced, a scary concept that no one quite understands, and they don’t want to disturb her with even as they hang out in her pool and sleep on her floor — they especially don’t want to disturb her dad, because of course every story has a good guy and a bad guy, right?