Seeds and Stems

Fantagraphics. Aug. 2020. 350p. ISBN 9781683963097. pap. $29.99. Rated: M. literary
Let it be known: this collection of stories taken from various anthologies and limited-edition zines created between 2016 and 2019 proves once and for all that there’s not another living cartoonist as brazenly funny or unflinchingly weird or insightful about mental illness as Hanselmann (Bad Gateway). For the uninitiated, Hanselmann’s work features Megg, a depressive green-skinned witch; her boyfriend Mogg; their pretentious roommate, Owl; and a hedonistic psychopath named Werewolf Jones. A story might hinge on a single moment of misconnection—a character making a joke that doesn’t land—or find the cast experimenting with lucid dreaming, seeking a cheap vasectomy, going to see a bizarre sf film, or trying to steal a soda from a bank teller. The characters experience endless degradation, which they interpret as a universal constant and rarely recognize as the result of their own choices. While that might not sound very funny, Hanselmann’s genius lies in finding absurd humor in absolute darkness and also—especially in stories about Werewolf Jones—unsettling darkness at the core of what seems at first silly and absurd.
VERDICT Hilarious, upsetting, and thoroughly brilliant.

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