Douglas Wolk reviews MAKE ME A WOMAN for the NYTBR

Comics Reviews: 12/13/10

The New York Times    |    Douglas Wolk    |    December 3, 2010

The same delight in drawing comes through in Vanessa Davis’s MAKE ME A WOMAN (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95), which otherwise couldn’t be more different from Cooke’s work: it’s proudly girly, chatty and frequently hilarious. Davis’s subjects are herself, her friends and the small pleasures and occasional irritations of her day-to-day existence. (On having her wisdom teeth removed: “I loved the whole experience. It was weird and fascinating and gross.”) Her artwork is doodly and gestural; she doesn’t bother much with panel borders, and her characters look as if they’ve been molded from careful observation, then squished flat onto the page.

“Make Me a Woman” collects Davis’s comics from the past six years, including a multitude of three-page strips — all tangentially about her relationship with Jewish culture — that initially appeared in the online magazine Tablet. Those more finished pieces have fleshed-out narratives and layered, glowing color, but her loosely sketched one-pagers on everyday life (some with half-erasures and false starts left intact) are even more winning. In one episode, Davis fumes at her mother’s suggestions that she should “develop past diary comics” and that “the goal is to get into fiction at some point.” Of course it’s not: the goal, as with the cartoonists of Joyce Farmer’s generation, is to make a new kind of comic out of experiences that never seemed like the stuff of art before.

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