series: ALEX
publisher: Fantagraphics
language: English
pages: 256:

Mark Kalesniko's Alex is a landmark in comics: the point at which the focus and integrity, the scope and the power of the best in theater and film enters the comic book medium. Through the simple story of an alcoholic ex-animator, Alex gives full expression to the themes of shame of failure, the cost of living through dreams, and the redemption of hope held by the solid, simple beauties of day-to-day life. Kalesniko's drawings, through rendering light yet fully rich, display a wealth of observed detail; the postures, expressions, gestures and surroundings of his actors expand on the surface of the mind, enfolding readers in its story completely and with compassion.

"Alex is a thirtyish artist who has retreated from a successful career as an animator in Los Angeles to his forlorn hometown. Depicted as a dog-headed man in a world of humans — symbolic of his alienation from those around him as well as of the anthropomorphic animals he once drew — he spends his days drinking, watching TV, and laboring over drawings he ultimately destroys in drunken despair. Reminders of his unhappy adolescence (devastatingly portrayed in Kalesniko's Why Did Pete Duel Kill Himself? 1997) surround him in the persons of his childhood pal and only friend, Jerome, whose life is even more pathetic than Alex's (he still lives at home with his religious-fanatic mother); his high-school crush, who's returning to town; and his former art teacher, now a homeless alcoholic presaging a similar fate for his rudderless student. Former Disney animator Kalesniko possesses a wonderfully distinctive visual style consisting of delicate but assured line work, simple yet dynamic compositions, and effective variation of panel shapes; perhaps his nearest peer is French comics master Guido Crepax. He expertly deploys that style in the service of a touching, compelling portrait of a life immobilized by personal and artistic frustration." – Gordon Flagg, Booklist (Starred Review)

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