Cons: Too short, and Peter Bagge's introduction is humiliating for all concerned
I picked this up on weird instinct -- I don't like the cover, I wasn't familiar with the author -- and ay yi yi, it is one of the most refreshing things I've read recently. Highly recommended. Alternative comics fans, or those seeking to join that elite group, please read on.
Even though I found it in one of the miniature "Comix by women! See, look how inclusive we are! We carry Dykes to Watch Out For now, so you can't accuse us of being overgrown teen-aged boys only interested in Marvel and DC schlock!" sections that are popping up in comic book stores, Lorna Miller's Witch has, thankfully, no flailing and silly feminist ideology to ruin things. (This is a built-in and frequently valid fear with things occupying the "Look, we really do publish women. Only the kind we think would shoot our balls off if we didn't" section.)
Witch has a disappointing introduction by Peter Bagge; skip it -- it's more him masturbating over himself ("All the Brits send me their comics!") than saying anything useful about the book. Maybe he couldn't say anything useful -- he has apparently heard of Beano but that's about it, and seems to miss that Miller's dizzying variety of drawing styles make the book -- oh, wait. It's more than just really, really funny that she's done it in the style of British children's cartoon collections, it is
"...subversive parody alongside challenging issues [that make] this book a prime example of what can be achieved with the comic medium."
From that back cover, that. I think this parody aspect might be wasted on American audiences, which just goes to show how brilliant a book it is, since it even works for people who don't recognize the style. (Those who do should try reading Viz magazine; http://www.viz.co.uk/, a bi-monthly comic full of dirty words and, well, subversive parody.)
There are a number of strips in the book. I think I am most fond of "Angela, Sales Assistant" -- "the sorry tale of a girl born for better things," or, better put, what Douglas Coupland wishes he could have communicated in Generation X.
There is no small shame in saying that the cartoony "Angela" is a favourite, since a good chunk of the book is taken up with detailed (and highly talented) accounts of trips to, and the history of, Berlin and Lithuania. Miller includes that which would completely slip under the radar of any travel writer -- the profuse number of lavishly illustrated flyers for plays in her hotel in Germany, cheaply printed as they may be. I'm all for ephemera, and it's fascinating to see it so neatly documented like that.
Ignore the cover, which is creative but not at all represenative of the whole, pester your local store to not only sell it but to get it off the dusty bottom shelf and in the window, and spread the good word. This set me back a mere US$9.95; compared to the prices being demanded by some more uppity artists (calling Robert Crumb: when will you be selling your used toilet paper at $75 per?) and presses (the bulk of my irritation with the "wimmen's comix" section is probably due in no small part to the ridiculous prices demanded by the publishers -- I understand the distribution and small print run issues, but), it's a steal.