Growing up ain’t easy—at times it can get downright depressing.
One has to come to this graphic novel with a certain amount of approving open-mindedness—the drawing is appealingly innocent and after all, he does have the good sense to name the thing after one of the better songs by Minnesota band and ’80s alt-music touchstone Hüsker Dü. It’s easy then to overlook some of the less endearing points, but this feeling of generosity doesn’t last terribly long. Porcellino’s story is based on his own mid-’80s adolescence in the Chicago suburb Hoffman Estates, and it’s not one that he’s overly concerned with making plot-friendly. His John is a moody teenager who spends most of his days listening to the underground bands of the time and trying to determine just what is making him so depressed. There are stabs at relationships, which tend to travel a pretty rocky road, and occasional attempts to escape the placid tedium of his surroundings. One especially memorable moment takes place during a nighttime jaunt to Lake Michigan, which results in John experiencing an explosively cathartic and borderline spiritual epiphany. For the most part, though, the comic bumbles along through minor mishaps and mini-events, befitting the cheerfully slapdash and childlike drawing—which, appropriately enough, looks like the kind of thing you’d see in a 50-cent Xeroxed comic found in the back of record stores. Where Porcellino’s efforts fail is not in his attempt to replicate the small events of a mostly uneventful time or the triggers that would send him into dark depression, but in his inability to render his adolescence as anything but average. This problem is exacerbated in an afterword/biography that makes the author’s viewpoint seem less introspective than self-indulgent.
Small lives portrayed with a certain elegance, but nevertheless hampered by small vision.