(By Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, 172 pp, $21.95)
Koby Franco has a poor relationship with his father, but when his dad's girlfriend shares her fear that he's been blown up in a terrorist explosion outside Tel Aviv, Koby consents to help her solve the mystery: is his father's the one unidentified corpse? (The story comes from Israeli filmmaker David Ofek's 2003 doc No. 17.) Rutu Modan's detailed panels–filled with average people going about their affairs (why are so many comics told as though the protagonist is the only person in the world?) and conveyed in the desaturated hues of despair–speak of a country where death is a constant presence and kindnesses can't be counted on. Bonus: the ending, though not the one you might expect, is a happy one.
(By Adrian Tomine. Drawn & Quarterly, 108 pp, $22.95)
Adrian Tomine is the reigning king of comic ennui, and with Shortcomings, which collects issues 9 to 11 of his Optic Nerve, he continues his wonderfully misanthropic rule. The story centres on Ben Tanaka, a typically maladjusted Tomine character with poor social skills and corrosive envy. The aimlessness of modern life, a distrust of ambition, and an interest in surveillance are all vintage, but Shortcomings is Tomine's most explicitly racial book yet, using Tanaka's relationship with a fellow Japanese American and his sexual yearnings for white women to explore issues of assimilation and self-hatred. Shortcomings isn't the happiest book you'll ever read, but it's eerily familiar, like something shared in a midnight call to your last friend on Earth. (Tomine makes a rare Vancouver appearance on November 13; for info, contact Sophia Books at 604-684-0484.)
(By Joe Matt. Drawn & Quarterly, 124 pp, $22.95)
Joe Matt returns with the latest bound collection of his ongoing series, Peepshow. Here, issues 11 to 14 document the cartoon version of Matt compulsively collecting and editing porn footage; we're treated to several pages of his alter ego lining up and dubbing just the right frames. "God help me, I don't wanna end upa sex-crazed old man, living all alone in a basement somewhere," he tells himself, but unless his–only–friends Chester Brown and Seth (real-life cartoonist buddies) can pull him out of himself, it seems he's already holding his hermit-perv destiny in his own oily hands. The clean lines and flat duo tones put Matt squarely in line with powerhouses Seth and Brown.
EXIT WOUNDS, SPENT and SHORTCOMINGS in the Georgia Straight