Spring 2002

A fraternity of trifles

The Acme Novelty Library #15

Chris Ware<br> Fantagraphics, US$9.95<br>

With Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan upending expectations of the comic book form (and winning the Guardian First Book Award 2001), along comes the latest, long-awaited instalment of the periodical in which Jimmy’s existential adventures were originally gestated. Delivered in a massively oversized format and with a dazzling mandala cover, Ware’s ‘new fraternity of trifles’ develops the Chicago cartoonist’s fixations with structural convolution and astringent melancholia.

The cast of characters includes Rocket Sam, a stranded astronaut; and a terminally unattached toy collector named Rusty Brown. Although Quimby the Mouse and Jimmy Corrigan make brief appearances, Acme’s new centrepiece feature is Tales of Tomorrow, a strip whose rest-home ambience provides the perfect setting for Ware’s caustic comedy of disappointing gimmicks and undelivered dreams.

At the comic’s literal heart lies the paper construction project obligatory to each issue, this time taking the form of a self-assembly 3D motion-picture viewer. This monstrously absurd device requires an improbably ambitious range of very small components, yet remains not entirely unconvincing in its promise to be functional when (finally) assembled. Twisted, tragic and very, very funny.

David Thompson, writer, Sheffield

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