Third and final volume of the High School Comic Chronicles (Potential, 2008, etc.).
The artist’s senior year is full of profound changes, and it’s no accident that the strip invokes Ulysses, Infinite Jest and The Brothers Karamazov. This installment has an epic scope and scale as it deals with everything transpiring in Schrag’s life, mind and art while she prepares for the transition from high school to college. The complications inherent in this rite of passage are compounded by Schrag’s unrequited—or less requited than she would like—love for Sally. Now a college student, Sally seems more hetero than bi, while Schrag alternately questions and embraces her own homosexuality. The breakup of her parents’ marriage causes strained feelings toward both of them (not helped when Schrag’s mother tries to bond with her over marijuana). She’s excited when she’s accepted at Barnard, but it also adds to her tension; she’s having a hard enough time deciding who she is, and now she will have a new stage for self-invention. Schrag’s art is strikingly transformed as well. The lettering veers from print to scrawl, and panels change from white to dark to gray, reflecting the emotional turmoil of a cartoonist who finds herself “thinking in double frame,” simultaneously engaging with her life and the comic narrative it inspires. There’s also a meta-comic dimension here, as the artist confesses to “all the lies” in her previous volumes and confuses dreams and fantasies (many of them masturbatory) with reality. Toward the end, some of her experiences become so fragmentary that chapters are only two panels long.
A big leap of artistic ambition and self-discovery; Schrag saved the best for last.