The latest issue of Seth's Palookaville is, as anyone familiar with his work might expect, a thing of considerable beauty. This time it's cloth-bound and wrapped in a striking green foil dust jacket. After 19 sporadically-released single issues, the Canadian cartoonist made the move in 2010 to approximately biennial hardcovers with a broader range of content. Here he continues the long-running Clyde Fans, the autobiographical Nothing Lasts, and also features a selection of photographs of his wife's barbershop and related promotional materials designed by Seth, plus a fold-out strip about a barber.
Suffused with nostalgia and bitter melancholy, the elegant four colour panels showcase Seth's distinctive visual style. Clyde Fans continues the story of the Matchcard brothers, owners of the titular fan company, set in his fictional town of Dominion. The ongoing saga first appeared inPalookaville 10 in 1998, and charts the demise of the family business through changing times (principally, the rise of air conditioning as a replacement for fans), whilst focusing on the ill-matched brothers' relationship. This time Abe and Simon bicker and reminisce, particularly about their father's unexpected departure, then Abe reflects on his personal and professional failures, his scorn directed inwards rather than at his sibling for the first time.
Both stories are linked by a concern for memory and the loss of the past, although not necessarily a desire for it to return. In Nothing Lasts, there's often no obvious connection between the images and the words - it's like we're walking round his old neighbourhood with him, while he reflects on his childhood, revealing and concealing in equal measure. This languid pacing is a common element in Seth's work. We learn about his parents - very close to his mother, more distant from his father. The paternal relationship was clearly complicated, and there's probably some echo of this in Clyde Fans. He also writes about how he became interested in reading then producing comics, describing his furtive teenage habits of buying them in a local shop, desperately hoping to avoid being seen by classmates, noting that this attitude was more appropriate for pornography. It's hard not to draw parallels between the panels in his friend Chester Brown's The Playboy in which he describes stealthily shopping for that magazine in his own teenage years.
This is another great entry in the Palookaville series. It's not an ideal starting point for neophytes, consisting as it does of ongoing works continued but not concluded. However, any regular readers will want to pick this one up.