Chris Ware's works have been described as `unbearably obtuse', `psychologically abusive', `bleak' and `depressing'. And these are just the descriptions offered by Mr. Ware himself. Wikipedia says, "The defining characteristics of Ware's work include a pervasive sadness and nihilism, tales of disappointment, thwarted affection, and the dehumanization of the individual in a modern and mechanized world."
So get ready for a good ole' time....
Chris Ware is a very interesting artist. His visuals have an extraordinarily clean/meticulous look with extensive use of primary shapes particularly circles, simple flat colors without shading and thick black bordering. They look like they came straight from a graphics design class. The light, whimsical visual contrast dramatically with Mr. Ware crushingly depressive writing. His stories tend to focus on pathologically introverted figures and main characters who tend to be chunky misfits and loners with little to no friends. The art teacher obsesses on the appearances of his young students and spends class time trying to sneak peeks at the girl's panties. After school he smokes pot in the back of his student's car. And the teachers name? Mr. Ware.
As strange as it may sound my biggest issue with Chris Ware is his tendency to print his books in odd physical dimensions. When I purchased `Quimby the Mouse' I was surprised to find that it was an unwieldy 14 by 11 which made it difficult to store. This may seem trivial but I now check the dimensions of anything I purchase by Mr. Ware. The book I'm reviewing is a much more compact 9 by 7. Another issue I have is his tendency to use absurdly small fonts. I have very good vision and I've never worn glasses or contacts but sometimes I flat out can't read the text. You really have to see it (or not see it?) to know what I'm talking about. My last beef is that his work often goes beyond bleak into the realm of sterile. His art is SO meticulous and precise that it can sometimes lose its humanity as if it were drawn by a robot. The characters tend to resemble each other in manner and appearance with Rusty Brown and Chalky White being practically interchangeable.
This particular edition focuses on Rusty Brown, a young boy in primary school who imagines himself with super powers rescuing the Supergirl doll he carries around. The only semi friend he has is Chalky White who is equally unaccepted by his peers. Since the events are part of an ongoing series there is no beginning or end to the story and nothing triumphant or uplifting occurs. Regardless of the quality of his works it's unlikely that Chris Ware will ever have mass appeal because he is so unconventional. I enjoyed the book but I'm generally one of those people who enjoys comics and movies that are out of the mainstream. On the other hand I love a good Superman story too. I recommend the Acme collection but I can understand where Mr. Ware's critics are coming from.