AGONY by Mark Beyer


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Two misfits try to stay positive as they stumble through a series of outlandishly unfortunate events in this reissue of Beyer’s (Amy and Jordan, 2004) alt-comic classic.

Amy and Jordan are best friends, roommates, and cohorts in suffering. Their misfortunes begin mundanely enough—simultaneously fired from the same company, disappointed by the movie they hoped would lift their spirits—but quickly escalate to surreal with Amy’s beheading by “some hideous ghoul creature.” Jordan recovers Amy’s noggin inside the belly of a giant fish, though he loses his legs diving through the creature’s snapping jaws. Nevertheless, aquarium staff free Jordan and Amy’s head, and a few weeks in the hospital bring full recoveries to both. Next, the two travel to a remote island to live with its primitive inhabitants and hopefully never worry about jobs again—which results in wholesale slaughter and catastrophe. Amy and Jordan survive, thanks to the inexplicable help of a massive beast, but exposure to toxins during the catastrophe strips away Amy’s flesh, leaving her a ghastly—but living—“human skeleton.” Like a daisy chain of calamity the cycle stretches: Amy and Jordan strive for betterment only to be viciously struck down by capricious fate, whose same fickle finger ultimately flicks them back up—and onto the next mishap, from lame dinner party to prison sentence to a voyage across the sea. Beyer wastes no panels, propelling the story with the manic energy, abrupt transitions, and frank, expository dialogue of children’s doodles—an association underscored by his images’ flat, geometric appearance. But this simple aesthetic belies the work’s complexity, as Beyer packs frames with a riot of bold lines, stacked patterns, and rich stippling, ensnaring and rewarding the gaze wherever it falls. His pair’s earnest striving amid relentless, absurd tribulations strikes a universal chord: “We’ve just got to keep trying harder,” says Jordan. “It’s a struggle, but what else can we do?”

Gorgeously madcap and brutally inspiring.

Pub Date: March 22nd, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-59017-981-9
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: New York Review Comics
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2016


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