Nemi Vol. 3 (Titan Books)

nemi3-header.jpgAnother collection of the misadventures of the care-free, ultra-cynical, occasionally hard-drinking heroine Nemi, courtesy of Norwegian cartoonist Lise Myhre. 


144 pgs., color; $14.95

(W / A: Lise Myhre)


Nemi Montoya is the girl I think I might be if I were a little less blonde, a little thinner and maybe spent a little more time at the bar. She’s outrageously cynical and completely honest, doesn’t want to vacuum in case the dust bunnies have a civilization forming, won’t watch the news, lives off of chocolate and red wine, and will imagine her entire lifetime with someone in the fifteen seconds before she turns down their offer to dance. Nemi is a little bit manipulative, broke and weird but in a likeable way. I’m fairly sure that, if we all look around, we can find a little bit of Nemi in our lives. Some of us will have to look a little less far but what’s life without a few freaks?

Lise Myhre, the creator of Nemi, first got her start writing for a Norwegian collection of Gary Larson’s The Far Side strips, and this makes a lot of sense given Myhre’s comic sensibilities, which lean toward pointing out the absurdity there is to be found in everyday. She was eventually given an entire page, which she called The Black Side, and that was where Nemi first appeared. Large portions of her early work consisted of commentary on the Norwegian metal scene, but the strip is now generally more about life in these twentysomething years, probably due to wider publication. Nemi Vol. 3 is a collection of strips first published in various newspapers and magazines in Europe, loosely grouped by season. Most of the artwork is very basic but brought to life by the vivid colors used, making the book visually appealing without being busy. The backgrounds are typically sparse, giving all of the energy in the strips to the expressive characters and snappy dialogue. It’s got a very Jim Davis feel to it, honestly, but occasionally adds some fantastic details, such as a flower vase that Nemi thinks is a cat after a bottle or two of wine.

There’s a lot of drinking with Nemi and her best friend, Cyan, and various foils for their sometimes-brutal wit. Since there is a lot of drinking, there’s more than a few one-night-stands, which is a little eyebrow raising, but we’ll give Europe a pass on that one. Other than the random boys she picks up in bars, Nemi seems to be mostly single, allowing for some pretty funny commentary on the bar scene and the men who populate it. She has trouble holding a job due to her active dislike of mornings, insisting on one occasion that her alarm clock is a bad dream before returning to slumber, but a firm grasp of the joys of government benefits. She eats mostly junk food and vegetarian food that’s free and smokes like a chimney, not to mention the aforementioned drinking. Nemi could probably use a little more balance in that regard but it’s also a little refreshing to see a character so defiantly written in this age of macrobiotic diets and Botox.

I suppose this is the point in the review where, were I a good reviewer and not an unemployed hedonist getting ready to celebrate my birthday for four days, I would mention that there really could be a bit more balance in these books. Nothing major, really, but perhaps a little bit of consequence thrown in with Nemi’s seemingly-carefree one-night-stands and chocolate binges. Lucky for us, I’m not that sort at all and will probably end up on the news at some point this weekend caught in the glow of a police spotlight, making me completely unqualified to point fingers. I would, however, strongly advise that any grownup types out there look at this book as crammed full of teachable moments before you hand it over to your sweet little goth prince or princess. If you do look at it that way, though, there’s a lot to be learned here about the value of being yourself. There’s a really charming little section of the book where we see a younger Nemi taking on the rich snobs at her school and failing, but eventually learning a lesson from everyone’s buddy, the Abominable Snowman, about how not fitting in will serve her well later in life. Her friendship with Cyan is pretty moving, too, as the sometimes too-carefree Nemi balances out the sometimes too-worried Cyan.

Even with the nods to teenager appropriateness, Nemi is clearly aimed at our generation, those youths growing up into something not quite disaffected but not quite ready to settle into a 9-5 before that time comes. It’s got a tinge of subculture to make it interesting but will cross those lines fairly easily. So, if you spot this book on your local funnybook vendor’s shelves, flip through it and think about taking a walk on the grey side with our questionable heroine. | Erin Jameson



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