(Originally Published @ Thirteen Minutes)
Me Likes You Very Much (Hic and Hoc Publications): Since I’ve already confessed my adoration of the adorkable Brooklyn-based creator Lauren Barnett after reviewing a handful of her mini-comics, I’ll try to enter this as objectively as possible. This stout collected edition is billed as Lauren’s first “not-published-by-her” book. It’s 5 years worth of “best of” material from her daily web-comic, and a huge step-up from her diverting work that’s sometimes been transitioned to short mini-comics format. It’s got a full color heavier stock cover and quite a few color pieces sprinkled into the largely black and white affair. It’s 192 pages of perfect bound awesome sauce, so kudos to Matt Moses’ Hic and Hoc Publications for finally providing the type of treatment that Lauren’s work deserves. In several disarming swoops, Lauren displays, just like the cover advertises in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the sheer versatility of the medium. I can see how if you didn’t really pay attention to the content, it would be tempting to dismiss this as “cute” animal and fruit cartoons. But, let me warn you now that it’s deeper and more intricate emotionally, so don’t you dare dismiss it. With a colorful eggplant guiding us through chapters of “stuff,” which have actually been carefully curated, Me Likes You Very Much plays like an extended gallery show which blends Barnett’s wry humor with her world-weary observations. The full page animal spots (lion, fish, rabbit, butterfly, etc.) which punctuate areas of the book are representative of the way that Barnett playfully juxtaposes the literal and the figurative, both visually and with the language itself. There’s a lot of fruit. There’s also a lot of birds used as recurring characters; I like the ones staring up at the stars, wondering if anyone would notice if they’d died, in pure existential crisis mode. You have to wonder if birds are just something that Lauren likes to draw, or if these are cipher devices, with their ostensible fickle nature being the type of lens through which Lauren herself also sees the world. I enjoyed strips like the one involving Jelly’s anger at Peanut Butter’s infidelity with Apple. These are the strips where Barnett is unafraid to invoke over-the-top curse words in order to poke fun at our faux outrage over ultimately inconsequential things. For example, there’s also the bird who just drops his drink on the sidewalk. That’s all he does, yet he blurts out “motherfucking shit ass cocksucking crappy poop face taint.” These types of strips are actually the key to Lauren’s work, I think. The strips are honest above all else. They’re all honest. They’re honest about what we really think but are afraid to say, honest about the imperfection of our actions based on our ego, and honest regarding the imbalance of our reactions rooted in our insecurities. That’s Lauren Barnett’s ultimate power as a creator, she speaks the truth. With that dry humor and quirky observational style, you can almost imagine her forsaking the life of an indie comics creator and playing the stand-up comic circuit in New York. I’m glad she’s sticking with us instead. Grade A.