Written by Jonathan Ames
Illustrated by Dean Haspiel
Published by Dark Horse Comics
I bought and read this when it first came out through DC/Vertigo almost ten years back. I remember really liking it then, but couldn’t remember a lot of the details.
I’m glad I was able to read it again for a few different reasons. One of the primary ones is because my appreciation of artist Dean Haspiel has increased a lot over the intervening years.
I also had a chance to read and see some other work by Ames since 2009 (HBO’s Bored to Death comes to mind).
The book starts off in a very disorienting way. Jonathan A. (a stand in for the author) wakes up from a drunken stupor in a station wagon. He finds himself sitting next to a woman.
The woman lives in the station wagon. She is trying to force him to make love to her. It’s a funny scene that is truly uncomfortable and ultimately very sad. It sets the tone for the entire book.
From there, we flashback to see how Jonathan A. came to be the character in the station wagon. We see him in his teenage years going home from a party with his best friend Sal. Sal proclaims “Let’s get drunk every weekend!” And so they do. And then it becomes more than just the weekends. It also becomes more than just alcohol that Jonathan starts experimenting with.
There’s a bunch of drugs, sex, and bad behavior that follows Jonathan A. as he grows up. He has trouble maintaining relationships. But still he drinks.
He’s trying to be “cool” and not feel like a loser. He becomes a writer and that only makes things worse. He starts to think that being an alcoholic and a writer go hand in hand.
Finally, the events of September 11, 2001 happen and Jonathan A. comes to a decision about his life. He realizes he is destroying himself. And that’s when the power of the book really sinks in.
Ames doesn’t hold back. Everything is raw in this book. It can be funny one minute and then uncomfortable the next. The scene that demonstrates this the best is when Jonathan A. comes across Monica Lewinsky. It’s hard to look at and read but it’s utterly fascinating.
The art by Haspiel is amazing. He really is one of the best storytellers in comics. This is a hard look at a tough subject and Ames and Haspiel both dig deep here.
Did all of this happen? Or is some of it made up? It’s so powerful, you won’t even care. You’ll just be amazed by how provocative it truly is.