This is one of the most wonderful graphic novels I’ve read in a while. Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life is the kind of verve, energy and complexity that can only come from a memoir that is brought vividly to life by a creator who is unflinchingly honest and has a wonderful eye for detail.
This book is the story of Ulli and her friend Edi, two aimless teenagers who leave their home in Vienna in 1984 in order to travel aimlessly across Europe. After they leave Vienna, they embark on a series of adventures that are sometimes hilarious and sometimes harrowing but always flawlessly realized and real.
Matched with Lust’s outstanding eye for detail is a sense of easy storytelling enthusiasm – as this long book progresses and the experiences accumulate for Ulli and Edi, Lust’s art becomes more complex, more imaginative and more filled with storytelling experimentation. As she becomes increasing acclimated to her itinerant life on the road, the art seems to grow into the story. Her linework in sequences that had seemed tentative earlier in the book become increasingly sophisticated as she moves along, in a remarkably subtle transition that works beautifully.
The two women have a tremendously eventful story, ranging from pubic crabs to an initiation into the world of the Mafia; from the freedom and excitement of new friend to the terror of being trapped in a small area with a rapist that she gets stuck with, because of her own hubris and actions.
I’m a little late coming to this book: Fantagraphics released Last Day around a year ago, and this book has appeared in many critics’ Best of 2013 lists. In fact, several friends thrust this book upon me, demanding that I read it because of the life and energy in the book. If I had read it, this book would have been in my Top 10 of last year.
And if I’d read this book in 1984, when I was 18 and hankering for a great adventure away from my parents and my dull hometown, I might have seen Ulli’s and Edi’s adventures as a beacon call for escape. Despite all the stress, pain and horror, it’s clear that our heroines don’t regret their journeys for a moment. That pleasure of reminiscence shows through in every page of this generous, outstanding graphic novel.