guttergeek the discontinuous review of graphic narrative

April/May 2009

Chris Wright,
Inkweed (Spark Plug Comic Books, 2008). $16.00, paperback.

By Jared Gardner

I am grateful to the good folks at Sparkplug books for producing some of the most consistently innovative, intelligent, and surprising books around. Thanks to Sparkplug we have the ongoing brilliant Reich, and the far-too-infrequent genius of Jason Shiga, to name just two that have become especially dear to me in the last couple of years. I am also grateful to the good folks at Sparkplug for letting me know when I’ve missed a title. Chris Wright’s collection Inkweed (2008) is now officially the best book of 2008 I (and probably you) completely failed to register back in those heady days when the economy was still “strong” and missions were still “accomplished.” It is not a perfect book, by any means: its idiosyncratic style (both the linework and the writing) can alternate (sometimes in the same story) between pretentious and moving; and the stories themselves are not all up to the level of the very best in this collection (“The Urn,” “The Unmerciful Gift”). But as Wright himself says in the introduction, this is a young artist’s collection, from the transient years of new apartments and roommates, to those years when Fellini and Tarkovsky were new, to all that Wright says a poignant “goodbye” to with this collection. For those of us who haven’t moved in years and who can recite (in Italian) extended quotes from La Dulce Vita, one might imagine that such a collection would come across as at the very least puerile. But this is the work of a young man already a mature artist, one ready to take the medium in new directions in the decades ahead. Far from making us feel old, this is the once-every-year-or-so book that makes an old guttergeek feel young again.