Written and Drawn by Emi Lenox
Published by Image Comics
Reviewed by Marc Mason
While superheroes may dominate the sales charts these days, the most interesting and impressive growth (genre-wise) in comics these days comes in autobiographical work. That said, a good chunk of it is unreadable and unpleasant. But not all of it- some artists are doing remarkable stuff in the autobio realm, and Portland-based cartoonist Emi Lenox’s first full collection of her work shows that she is among the very best.
What sets Lenox’s work from others is a combination of things that grant EMITOWN its distinct style. The greatest autobio comic of all time- Eddie Campbell’s ALEC- is done in chunks of long-form storytelling. Lenox, however, produces her work as a daily diary. One page = one day in her life. While your initial reaction might be that it would be difficult to achieve a lot of depth in such a short piece, you’d be wildly wrong. Through a combination of varied storytelling techniques, she uses changes in artistic style, layouts, tone, and color to prevent the pages from feeling static and to carry you through her mental and emotional processes.
That helps immensely in making her relatable. She touches on her day job just enough to universalize her experiences. Her approach to a relationship going south isn’t to over-share the details, but to shift her style and tell us what is happening by turning herself and the guy into comic book characters and excerpting “panels” into the diary that slyly show the decline between the pairing. That, I think, is a real strength- she knows when to step on the gas and bury her reader in details, but also when to wrap and cover herself and protect her privacy while still being candid. It’s a fine line, and you have to be very talented to pull it off. Lenox is just that.
EMITOWN covers a year in the author’s life, four-hundred pages of work, and displays the work of an amazing young talent. I have little doubt that we will soon be seeing a lot of other work from Lenox, both in books she creates and from publishers snapping her up and putting her to work. Judging from her work here, I’ll be on the lookout to read it.