GRAPHIC NOVELS

How To Be Happy

(text & illus.). Fantagraphics. 2014. 144p. ISBN 9781606997406. $24.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
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In these 20-plus parables of the human condition, Davis (The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook; Mome contributor) riffs not on happiness but on its opposite. An exquisite color woodblock-style introduces a settlement of neopaleo moderns, attempting to recreate Eden but still in conflict. Cheery painted art tells of Nita, living in a nature-rich gaia dome but visiting her sister's "normal" city where holoscreens erupt everywhere and people keep their toxoff suits zipped. Simple black-and-white drawings show an "Emotion Room," where emotions are slimy black ropes emerging from the body that can be washed away with a warm shower. (Wishful thinking? Totalitarian fantasy?) A thin-line black-and-white documentary depicts skinning a roadkill fox—finally the pelt and the body, joined now only at the nose, seem as two foxes kissing.
VERDICT Each vignette in this emotional yet intellectual collage strikes a familiar chord but in a way that disquiets. Fantasy and sf elements lend texture and variety as well as evocative metaphors. An elegant, sophisticated smorgasbord for lovers of literary comics, high school-age and up, and for those still doubting the power of the medium.

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