Originally released in 2008 through DC’s Vertigo imprint, The Alcoholic marks its tenth anniversary with a new edition from Berger Books. The debut graphic novel of acclaimed author and TV writer Jonathan Ames follows the life of a failing writer who’s coming off a doomed romance and searching for hope. Unfortunately, the first place his search takes him is the bottom of a bottle as he careens from one off-kilter encounter to another in search of himself.
Taking cues from Ames’ time as a columnist for The New York Press, this is a shockingly honest journey through the pitfalls of alcoholism that is equal parts sad and hilarious. As seen in his columnist work and some of his TV projects, Ames has a habit of blurring fiction with elements of his own life and The Alcoholic is no exception. Ames was a heavy drinker from a young age and upon becoming sober used his writing career to channel his experiences. Jonathan A is one such result from this practice.
Jonathan has had a rather crazy life and that’s putting it mildly. Discovering alcohol at an early age whilst going through the usual pains of growing up, he manages to put together a successful writing career. But this lifestyle only strengthens his already heavy dependence on alcohol and places him in increasingly outrageous situations. Even when 9/11 convinces him that he needs to get his life in order, it further spirals out of control leading to a frightening encounter on a ganja-infested Caribbean beach. And whilst there is the odd glimmer of hope, the ending emphasises that this isn’t a problem that just goes away.
The level of bluntness and honest expressed through Ames writing is staggering. Jonathan is not someone you’d naturally sympathise with – his narration conveys a rather self-centred outlook on life and most of the situations he gets himself into aren’t exactly flattering. But the honesty and frankness that he has to his life make it hard to not have a degree of sympathy for him. In addition, Ames manages to emphasise the ridiculousness of these situations to a degree that there is an element of humour to be found in Jonathan’s plight. It’s a tough balancing act but Ames pulls it off perfectly. This is all aided by Dean Haspiel’s powerful artwork. Being very familiar with the New Yory, you can tell he’s having a ton of fun with the setting. More importantly though, Haspiel has had a ton of experience with down to earth storytelling (his work on Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, The Quitter and his J Jonah Jameson origin story in Spider-Man: Tangled Web being top examples) and his style really helps put Jonathan through the ringer.
If you missed The Alcoholic the first time round, this is a perfect opportunity to check out two brilliant creators at the top of their game. Additionally, the bonus content including behind the scenes artwork and a new informative afterword from Ames provide a great excuse to revisit it.
The Alcoholic (10th Anniversary Expanded Edition) is out now from Berger Books
9781506708089 – P/B – £16.99
Post by Leo