The Knight Life: “Chivalry Ain’t Dead” (Grand Central Publishing)

Gentleman cartoonist Keith Knight (The K Chronicles) documents life’s little victories in this collection of his daily strip.

224 pages, color/B&W, $17.99
(W / A: Keith Knight, Gentleman Cartoonist)
I’ve often said that I don’t want to mix my comics with my reality. When I flip open a funnybook, I’m not looking for anything that I could possibly cry over. And I’m a huge baby. I really am. I cry over lots of stuff. So I’m not looking for the things I see on the news that make me look away and frown, I’m not looking for anything that would indicate real life is intruding at all, really. I typically read comics for a reason: I want to be transported. Be it Tony and Pepper flying around the world, cute creatures fighting epic battles, magical indie kids or mutants pitchin’ the teenage woo, I am able to be somewhere else, be someone else.
Keith Knight doesn’t give me that kind of escape hatch from the real world. He gives me racial profiling, homeless veterans and the recession. He also gives me just enough light at the end of the tunnel that I’m okay with it and it ends up being thought-provoking and not a turnoff. He gives me “Life’s Little Victories,” a miniseries within the larger framework of The Knight Life, his daily strip. “Life’s Little Victories,” as the title implies, is an illustrated list of those everyday things that we greet with a fist pump and a hissed “yeeeessssss!” He gives me Clovis, the vegetarian yogi friend, and Gunther, the silly media-obsessed friend. I get Kerstin, his German-American wife, navigating slang, and her cubicle and her assortment of ridiculous work stories that are eerily similar to conversations I’ve had. And, just to keep things fun, there’s Dexter (rapper, presumed dead) and Lil’ Dex (Dexter’s long-suffering honor student son) and Keith’s parents (Keith Knight, Sr., addicted to casinos, and the former Mrs. Knight, contentedly moved on). There’s all this stuff I know, people I recognize, even if they’re not my versions of them. Knight holds a mirror up to life, both good and bad, and sometimes he leaves us with something to chew on and sometimes he points and laughs.
The art is almost what I’d call a basic comic-strip style, round noses and pizza pie mouths and all. It looks like it needs to be on smudgy newsprint between Bloom County and Doonesbury, which might also be where I’d place it thematically. It’s not quite the whimsical talking penguin of Bloom County, but it’s not quite the hard-hitting Doonesbury, either. Knight mentions in his included notes that sometimes he doesn’t draw arms if it’s not necessary, but I got over it pretty fast. This is a collection of strips that originally ran as part of the United Feature Syndicate collection of newspaper comics (as opposed to his edgier and long-running strips The K Chronicles and (Th)ink) published around the country daily. Periodically, Knight uses the notes he provides for each strip to point out aspects of the comics that were changed or, even better, weren’t changed. Being a newspaper collection also means that every seventh strip is in glorious color. The book is thick but pretty basic, providing a lot of bang for the buck. There’s no French flaps here, just good comics.
Some of the topics discussed in this book might be a little old for the young’uns. I’d probably, if I’m picking a demographic, recommend this for young urban folk. We all remember hanging out at the coffee shop with the surly employees and our various apartment neighbors. We all also probably remember the moment when something truly bizarre was muttered over our cube walls and when that one guy suddenly turned into a real person and didn’t have to be “that one guy” anymore because of that one really cool thing he did. Keith Knight knows the power of a story. And he wants to tell us one. It’s not a particularly strange one, it’s not a magical journey through our headphones and obscure record collections or a field trip into the inner workings of a super-hero’s company headquarters. Nah, it’s that one Thursday night last month. And, for 224 pages, that’s enough for me. | Erin Jameson
Click here to read a brief excerpt of The Knight Life: “Chivalry Ain’t Dead,” courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.


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