A review of

Acme Novelty Library #19

by Chris Ware

Central question: What do you do when the last people left in the universe can’t stand you?
Format: 80 pp., cloth; Size: 9-1/2" x 7-3/10"; Price: $15.95; Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; Editor: Chris Ware; Print run: 18,540; Book design: Chris Ware; Years these comics appeared in the Chicago Reader, in slightly different form: 2002-04; Fictional periodicals referenced: Apogee Quarterly and Nebulous: Worlds of Imagination; Author’s childhood correspondence: wrote Charlie Brown a valentine on Valentine’s Day; Representative line: “I actually thought we’d been getting along fine…and yet, they were willing to risk their lives to get away from me…”

If you’re a guy who’s made a career of loneliness—the loneliness of the timid, the parentally neglected, the one-legged, the hoarders of action figures and slights real or perceived—you could do worse than set a book on Mars. All those blank, reddish vistas, and the chance to rework a classic romantic rebuff: “not if you were the last guy on…”

And so Chris Ware opens volume 19 of his remarkable Acme Novelty Library comics with the narrator and his girl, just possibly the only two humans left in the whole universe, giving each other the silent treatment. Backstory: The narrator didn’t care for how much time the girl was spending with the other couple in their camp, and Martian isolation could get to anyone, mentally speaking. Also, food became scarce, and the settlement dogs were prodigious breeders, and the narrator’s something of a problem solver.

Thus: human and animal dismemberment—both, mercifully, occurring during strange gaps in the narrative. This might seem like a departure for Ware (self-criticism, self-hatred, lethargy, and depression are Ware’s standard forms of violence—the human brain attacking itself, then wallowing in the aftertaste), but it turns out this was all a story written by the depressed, etc., W. K. Brown, father to Rusty, the protagonist of volumes 16 and 17.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Mark Edmund Doten

Mark Edmund Doten did a rewrite on a Lifetime: Television for Women movie starring one of the original Charlie’s Angels. Working titles were Mother Behind Bars and A Daughter’s Conviction.

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