In my favourite story in Jillian Tamaki’s new collection of graphic short stories – although, really, I like all of them – a woman, Jenny, who has just broken up with her boyfriend becomes intrigued and then obsessed by her own more successful life online.
On something called “Mirror Facebook” she watches as her alter ego, 1.Jenny seems to be living a more fulfilling life than hers. She even has a boyfriend.
It’s a story that is about human dissatisfaction and frustration, but it’s also a story that fits with the world as it is right now. Indeed, almost all of the stories in this elegant, strange, beautiful collection of graphic short stories operate in a world of social media, sound files, cult television. They explore the way we locate ourselves in the culture of our time.
They are also stories full of frustration, anxiety, misplaced desire and the quest for female agency.
Sometimes that takes a fantastic turn as in Half Life in which the main character Helen effectively becomes the incredible shrinking woman. Other times they are about how intention and reception are out of phase. (In Darla! The makers of a 1990s porno-sitcom are nonplussed by how it’s perceived by the next generation.)
Tamaki, whose SuperMutant Magic Academy was a New York Times bestseller and one of Graphic Content’s favourite books of 2015, is a master illustrator who can adapt her style effortlessly between bold loose art and tightly controlled panel work. What’s most rewarding, though, is the way the words and pictures rub up against each other: sometimes in sync, sometimes dissonant.
The result are punchy, open-ended comic strips that deserve the widest possible audience.