Like Galactus, I’m an insatiable devourer, but unlike the “God of Oblivion,” I consume comics, not planets. On an average week, I probably digest around two to three trade paperbacks and a handful of single issues. But I’m painfully aware that throughout my entire collection, I only own a smattering of punk-related and self-published comics. (Whereas my records and clothing are almost entirely punk-related.) Unlike music, my initial tolerance for amateur comics was very low. I can enjoy music that sounds like keys haphazardly tossed into a blender, yet staple-bound or small press comics rarely grab my attention. It’s a bias that is quickly dissolving due to the likes of Mitch Clem, Brian Connolly, Adrian Chi, Liz Prince, Ben Snakepit, and Evan Wolff, to name a few featured.
Issue three of this anthology series is centered around the theme of “Big, Big Changes.” The topic is approached from every angle by a slew of frank, self-deprecating, anxious, resilient, and hilarious voices rarely found in this medium, if you’re like me and typically peruse genre comics (crime, horror, sci-fi, adventure, and fantasy). We have a narrator frustrated by an arrogant guy she met in class, a man nervously lurching into fatherhood, and a grad student coming out of punk retirement. For the brief length of each piece, every story is complete, concise, and satisfying just like a memorable song on a mixtape. Furthermore, the art is varied, shattering any preconceptions. If you think punk comics are wiggly lines and simple characterizations, than you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the superb artistic talents in As You Were, akin to those featured at “The Big Two,” DC and Marvel, and other publishers (Top Shelf, Pantheon, and Image).
Like any decent compilation, you should be left wanting more from some of the folks featured. As You Were surpasses most compilations, as it left me wanting more from every person featured. Now it’s sandwiched on my shelf with the likes of Dave Gibbon’s The Originals, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Charles Burns’ Black Hole, because, as I’ve come to fully accept, quality comics can be found anywhere, in any shape and size, and from anyone. –Sean Arenas (Silver Sprocket, 1057 Valencia St., SF, CA94110, silversprocket.net)