Is Michael DeForge the hardest working person in comics? Presumably his day job on Adventure Time keeps him pretty busy – it’s not like TV in general nor animation studios in particular are known for being laid back, undemanding workplaces. Yet the books keep coming. Last year he released Dressing and Lose #7 with Koyama Press, First Year Healthy with D&Q, Sensitive Property with Youth in Decline and other bits and pieces online. And here we are, barely into 2016 and we have a new full-length book, Big Kids. Actually, it may be full length, but it’s not full size – this is tiny, not much larger than a CD. The initial air of cuteness is swiftly dispelled by the content, however, despite a mostly pink and yellow colour scheme inside.
Adam is a victim of bullying by his friends and his uncle. He has a submissive role in a relationship with Jared, but when he’s dumped for Tyson, a transformation occurs. The book starts with a relatively straightforward narrative for DeForge but then becomes as bizarre as those familiar with his work might expect. As Adam’s life changes, he is guided by April, a student of his mother’s who moves in to the house early in the book. We enter a strange world - which I am reluctant to spoil - but at the same time that things depart from reality, the insights remain, the human experience of adolescence is preserved, that uncertainty and those feelings of discovery. In particular, the book captures the way trying to focus on the memory of something can make it slip away.
This is a particularly accessible book for DeForge, which maintains his distinctive aesthetic throughout, and draws us in before taking us to the simultaneously unrecognisable yet realistic, truthful world he portrays, where things change suddenly and forever. It’s an outstanding work by one of the most original voices in comics today. Pete Redrup