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Book Review < Back

A Complete Lowlife

Credits: Written and Illustrated by Ed Brubaker
Publisher: Top Shelf


My girl and I do this thing. We do it whenever we're out and about and we encounter those worse for the drink, worse for the drugs, or worse for the whatever, we lean in close to one another and say "It's not us, it's not us, it's not us," really fast like the words are going to escape.

Because there was a time when it was us. I'm pretty sure there was a time when it was Ed Brubaker, too.

LOWLIFE is one of those books that walks through the hazy realm of late-teens/early twenties autobiographical fiction. There's too much at play on the page to be merely the work of fiction, the stories are too seared with sadness and rage to not have come from somewhere old but not quite forgotten, but at the same time there's a certain artistry and conceit to the stories told. Brubaker's book would be easy to pigeonhole and dismiss as clich├ęd nineties Slacker spew if there wasn't such an uncompromising clarity to his stories. We laugh at and flinch at his characters in equal measure, our judgments of them shift and change as they themselves do.

I have the feeling (based on the sorta-kinda strange coda that concludes A COMPLETE LOWLIFE) that Brubaker has grown enough to look back on his own youth with a certain fondness, that he can see his friends amongst the cast of LOWLIFE and remember through the bad endings all of the dumb fun that got them in trouble to begin with. I read LOWLIFE now and see that these were people I knew. These were people I hung out with, lived with, slept with. These people were me once.

I look at LOWLIFE now and think It's not me, it's not me, it's not me.

-- Matt Fraction

Matt Fraction splits his time between motion graphics and design house MK12, writing comics, and reading comics. He is the author of the graphic novels The Annotated Mantooth and Last of the Independents, both available from AiT/Planet Lar. He can be found on the web at mattfraction.com. His wife is hot.


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