Like a Dog (Fantagraphics)

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A collection of Recidivist and other comic book short stories by Zak Sally, former bassist for the slowcore band Low.

 

 

Like a Dog: Recidivist #1, 2 and assorted garbage (Fantagraphics
135 pgs. full color; $22.99 hardcover
(W / A: Zak Sally)
         
Zak Sally hasn’t published much in the way of indie comix, but what he has published has been collected into a career retrospective by Fantagraphics that manages to capture the angst and anomie of a then-confused twntysomething who also just happens to be a semi-famous musician.
 
Sally was the bassist for Low, a “slowcore” Sub Pop band that released a string of well received albums in the ‘90s. Sally was constantly on tour, living, as he puts it in his book, “in hotels, and on the couches, floors, and beds of other people” for a decade.

The romance of the road died early, as Sally recalls in the lengthy and entertaining endnotes to Like a Dog, as he was often unable to enjoy his success due to desire to sit in one place and draw comics—an impulse that, when honored, filled him with self-loathing at his primitive output, and when not honored, filled him with self-loathing at his lack of output.
 
His sturm und drang is filtered through a series of self-released strips and compilation projects that are uneven—sometimes, as in “You Won’t Let Yourself Be Touched,” from his self-published Recidivist comic, they transmit the otherworldly power of a vivid dream to the reader with lyrical effect. Other times, as in, for instance, “Room 21” from a Fantagraphics comp, they tell a wild story about a nymphomaniac trying to seduce the author that dies from some unpolished art.
 
Two stories are standouts: “At the Scaffold” uses the letters between Fyodor Dostoyevsky and his brother to tell the true tale of the former’s long confinement in a solitary cell in Russia. Sally makes you feel the grimness, misery, and injustice of it all, through 23 pages of panels, to its remarkably spiritual, uplifting ending. “The Man Who Killed Wally Wood,” reprinted from the beautiful journal Comic Art, has some iffy art, but features a true story that will touch anyone who’s wondered what they would do if a real-life villain—in this case an unscrupulous huckster who took advantage of the late, troubled, genius comic artist Wood—waltzed into their world. The Dostoyevsky tale in particular demonstrates Sally’s knack for chopping up a story into different configurations of panels, choosing points of view, and rendering architecture, shadows, odd characters, etc.
 
Some of the other work here is groovy, but as to the not-so-groovy efforts, well, Sally explains in his brutally honest endnotes that any artist has to wade thru his own muck to reach solid ground—it’s refreshing, but just how redeeming it is, you’ll have to decide.
 
The dreamy, trippy music of Low was an acquired taste, and the dream-like progressions of Sally’s efforts on paper play as a very personal, querulous, sometimes random collection that includes some nice riffs as well as some filler tracks. | Byron Kerman
 
Click here for more information and a 10-page preview, courtesy of Fantagraphics.
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