From Publishers Weekly
Since she began making underground mini-comics in Chicago in the early 1990s, Abel (Artbabe) has developed into a wonderfully literate comics storyteller and a skilled draftsperson. This collection of her most recent Artbabe stories captures Abel at her best, presenting the emotional texture of the lives of the young and unfocused. She's a literary cartoonist, chronicling a free-floating crowd of young, hip, pleasure-seeking barhoppers who also double as art students, wannabe writers, rock musicians and low-wage clerical workers. Whatever Abel's characters may lack in experience beyond college is made up for by the thoughtful presentation of their relationships, friendships and unfortunate one-night stands. Abel's young female characters project both a sense of unfettered social audacity as well as a capacity for neurotic self-absorption, a fictional profile of Abel's own go-getting post-feminist generation. In "Chin," she explores the deep friendship between Paloma, a reflective and fretful dancer on the downside of her career, and Nina, a cheerful and unflappable party girl, and their efforts to reconcile the contrasting demands of their lives. "Goddamn Hollywood" presents two women friends awkwardly and disastrously interested in the same dubious guy. Abel's black and white drawings are as assured, sensitively rendered and delightfully personal as her prose. The book also collects several short comic and nonfiction narratives.
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Abel has staked out narrow but rich territory for her insightful stories. They are all about twentysomething urbanites at pivotal moments in their lives. Slices of life, they are set in bars, bedrooms, and office cubicles. Their characters' jobs take a backseat to their relationships, though both are hassle-prone and unfulfilling. It would be a disservice to Abel and her subjects, however, to label them "Gen-Xers" or "slackers." Abel brings each character to life as an individual, from the ballerina Paloma, who fears she is over-the-hill at 22, to wanna-be writer Jamal, on the brink of an ill-advised move to New York. Abel's illustrative skills aren't on the same level as her storytelling talent, and it is hard not to think she is more a short-story writer than a cartoonist. Yet her strips play to her strengths--strong characterization, accurate dialogue, and a knack for capturing a distinctive milieu. The end of each story leaves you wishing you could find out what happens next. Abel is a graphic storytelling talent to watch. Gordon Flagg
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