Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: Buddy Does Seattle

Way back a few months ago at the Jet City Comic Show I picked up a $20 off coupon for Seattle's very own indie comic publisher Fantagraphics Books.  Since I'd never been there, but heard good things, I was pretty excited to check out their shop.

I made two purchases that day, one was Castle Waiting, which I loved, and the other was Buddy Does Seattle.  I'd heard Peter Bagge's, (pronounced "Bag"), name mentioned as a great indie writer/artist and figured that his graphic novel about life in Seattle during the early 90's would be a great place to start. Especially since I live in Seattle, and have an affinity for the Seattle grunge bands of the early 90's.

 Well, it turns out that Buddy, the titular character who the graphic novel is centered around, hates grunge music...Along with just about everything else in the world, which makes sense given that this graphic novel collects the Buddy Bradley stories from Bagge's Hate Comics.  

Even though there wasn't cool shit about grunge bands in this comic, there was a lot to love.  The story follows Buddy Bradley as he lives his life as a twenty-something slacker in Seattle.  Buddy's life is filled with a low paying dead-end job, slacker friends, druggie friends, neurotic girlfriends, and bitter micro brewed beer.  Buddy's life is eerily similar to my early twenties in Seattle, except he had a girlfriend, and my friends are far less slacker-ish. 

At times Buddy Does Seattle can be down right hilarious because the shit that happens to Buddy is so excruciatingly familiar.  Anyone who has gone through their twenties, or is going through their twenties could definitely find plenty to relate to in this story.  The story of Buddy isn't just a comedy though.  There's plenty of tragedy involved, as well as a generous helping of raunchiness.

The best thing about Buddy Does Seattle is that you get a pretty strong idea of what Peter Bagge hates, via Buddy's life.  You can tell Bagge hates grunge when Buddy winds up managing a shitty, sleazy grunge band called "Unsupervised Existence".   When Buddy gets a booth at a comic convention to hawk his "collectibles" you get an idea of how Bagge feels about the convention circuit and the vendors it attracts.  I felt like the story was at it's best when I could sense the hate flowing through the page.

Bagge's cartoon-style artwork is no less impressive than his writing.  I was impressed by how he was able to portray the inner thoughts and feelings of a character through their facial expression and body language.  I think the most fun aspect of his art is that everything is slightly, sometimes completely, over the top and over exaggerated and it makes for some hilarious panels.  When Buddy is shit-faced drunk his body slumps over at ridiculous angles.  When Buddy is relaxing in a hot tub, his body literally drapes over the edge of the tub.  Bagge's ultra-expressed art makes the story and art work together well, and keeps the story pace going at a nice clip. 

All told, I really enjoyed Buddy Does Seattle.  I understand that it might not be for everyone, and there's definitely some stuff that a non-Seattleite might not fully appreciate, but despite that, there is plenty to love.  Bagge's interpretation of what it's like to be a twenty-something in the city is spot-on for any city and still relevant today.  In fact, almost all the shit about the Seattle region and the people is still spot-on today.  That timeless quality is a real strength, and one that makes this graphic novel something that anyone could enjoy. 

Grade: A

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