Saturday, December 29, 2007

Written by Chris Staros
Drawn by Bo Hampton and Rich Tommaso
Published by Top Shelf

YEARBOOK brings together two short stories focused on Top Shelf honcho Staros’ younger years, each previously published as part of the late, lamented SMALL PRESS EXPO anthologies. The first, “The Willful Death of a Stereotype,” turns its eye towards a young geek’s attempt at achieving popularity and power through a school election. Story two, “The Worst Gig I Ever Had,” skips ahead to his high school years and the first rock band he played in. Each has its merits, though there’s no question that “Stereotype” is the shining gem of the duo.

Autobiographical comics have become such a mixed bag over the years that you tend to have your defenses built so high against them that they have little chance of succeeding. So many are about tweedy jerkoffs who want to tell you every minute detail about their lives and forget to tell you an actual story. But Staros knows exactly how to make them work. “Stereotype” has a full story to tell, and it’s one with an emotional and intellectual progression. “Gig” is a bit more of an extended humorous anecdote, but it also delivers on the punchline. I wish more cartoonists understood how important that is.

Artistically, Staros couldn’t have done better by himself. Bo Hampton is in a class by himself, and “Stereotype” looks incredible. Tommaso also turns in some terrific work, though it lacks some of the fluid spontaneity of Hampton’s work.

For four dollars American, this is a pretty sweet little treat. Pick it up and give it to someone like me who had lost his taste for autobio comix and remind them that the genre can still be done with skill and intelligence.


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