Look Back and Laugh: Journal Comics By Liz Prince, 416 pgs.

Dec 13, 2018

Maybe you’re like me and became familiar with Liz Prince’s comics through Razorcake. She always did a great job of weaving stuff from the punk scene into her short comics here. Her graphic novel Tomboy is fantastic, too—she writes and draws honestly about growing up battling pressures to conform to gender norms, and the longer format of the graphic novel allows her narrative writing to shine.

I was interested to see how her skill with both short and long form stuff would come together in Look Back and Laugh, a collection of her diary comics originally offered as incentives to her Patreon subscribers. The answer, I’m happy to report, is Liz Prince is killing it here.

Throughout Look Back and Laugh, Prince has an uncanny knack for style and pacing. She’s aware of how accelerating or decelerating action can occur through the number and style of her panels—or sometimes through the elimination of panels altogether. Take her comic from October 24 as an example: set up as an equation on the page, she and her husband Kyle, dressed in autumn clothes, are paired with a plus sign. The couple is paired with a rake, shovel, and dustpan. To the right of an equal sign are fifteen bags of leaves. The cartoon of an entire day spent in the yard of their new house, ridding their lawn of seasonal detritus demonstrates how much work the day took not as a task, but as a math problem (emphasis on the last word): There’s no border to their equation, just the yawn of repetition for each of the fifteen bags, the repetitious cycle of bending over to stuff leaves into bags. Contrast this pull pager to that of October 17, wherein Prince lies on the bottom of the page, surrounded by a border, looking funereal as the weight of her depression literally holds her down in the coffin of a panel: with so many words comprising her self-reflection, there’s nowhere for her to go, and no way to get up. Both days are different—but dazzling.

The heavier entries contrast with both the more everyday topics—like hanging with her cats, going out to eat, shopping for seltzer—and the hilarious (I’ll never hear Hall And Oates the same way again) and momentous (buying a house, or, for all the wrong reasons, the 2016 election). A year encompasses a spectrum of emotions, obviously, and in less expert hands would not have come across with such a level of pathos and daring. But Liz Prince is unafraid to take risks, to put her life on display in creative and brave depictions, making her art and storytelling some of the most compelling reading of recent memory. –Michael T. Fournier (Top Shelf Productions, topshelfcomix.com)