Hobo Mom review – a bleak look at family life from two top cartoonists

Two of the top cartoonists in their field team up for a seamless collaboration. Tom lives a simple life with his pre-teen daughter, Sissy. Her mother, Natasha, who left to hop trains and has become a vagrant, shows up on the doorstep of the family she abandoned years ago. There, Natasha finds an upset husband (who is still deeply in love with her), and a little girl yearning for a mother. Can someone who covets independence settle down?

If you’ve read any of Charles Forsman’s previous work (particularly The End of The Fucking World) you’ll be familiar with his rather bleak and cynical approach to storytelling (in a good way). And whilst Hobo Mom doesn’t quite hit the depths TEOTFW goes to, it’s nowhere close to being a feelgood story. Forsman’s collaborator is the Belgium cartoonist behind the international prize winning Bastard Max de Radiguès who has a similar art style and approach to storytelling. The result is amazingly seamless and as there’s no indication of who is drawing what page or panel – it is left to the reader to discern who is drawing what.

Beyond Forsman and de Radiguès’ subtle art style, they both have a similar approach to human relationships which is more understated than you would find in similar stories. All the main characters hold their emotions in or express them in a subtle way which given the subject matter is surprising. Natasha and Tom’s relationship is one you’d find in many dramas, but there are no dramatic confrontations or outbursts. Everything is very reserved, and it is impressive how much emotion Forsman and de Radiguès express in their subtle style of artwork. Tom’s frustration and love for Natasha along with Natasha’s struggle to decide whether she is suited to be a mother makes for some powerful reading and is guaranteed to resonate with readers. Besides the hobo that attempts to rape Natasha at the start of the story, there’s no real villain. The conflicts arise more from differing approaches to finding happiness which in turn cause hurt to others whether intentional or not.

This is a powerful yet subtle look at the difficulties of family life with all the bleak honesty you’d expect from the creators involved. Any fans of Forsman and Radiguès’ previous work need to have this on their shelves.

Hobo Mom is out now from Fantagraphics

9781683961765 – H/B – £12.99

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