Irene

The longest piece, “Solly Sitizen, Daymaker in: ‘Workin’ for the Clampdown,’” is the surprise winner for best story in this strong collection of well-crafted comic short stories. It wins for having the most intriguing premise and an ambiguous animal protagonist. Whether Solly is a hybrid cat-hedgehog or a quadruped of unknown genus, Solly’s job as a “Daymaker” is to make your day, usually with cupcakes. On this particular occasion a more sinister fate awaits the intended recipient and the contrast between Solly’s visually shiny-happy world and its residents’ noir dialogue, nefarious politics and ruthless brutality is as amusing as it is shocking.

The closing story, “Blueberry,” is the creepiest by far. Although too brief to make explicit its allusions, the story seems to be either an allegory of child abuse or an account of an obsessive- compulsive father’s communion snack food ritual and disturbing concern for his son’s sexual health.

Other contributions feature standard — albeit well-illustrated — comix fare: “Endswell”’s aging tattoo artist moonlights as a medic for boxers (and would be right at home in a short story for The New Yorker); “Skeletons” revolves around a boy’s anxious imaginings upon learning that his best friend is moving away; and two teenagers skip school to hang out and drop acid in “Come Into My Heart.”

Two of the contributors mention they studied at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. No surprise, then, that the artwork is of high quality and its reproduction for the collection is clean and sharp. Overall, Irene is a solid anthology worth the price of admission. (Shane Lange)

Comic Anthology, issue 1, blog.dakotamcfadzean.com, $10

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