American Splendor #4

A comic review article by: Jason Sacks
I'll say is straight-out at the beginning of this review so there's no doubt: Harvey Pekar is one of my heroes. I admire him tremendously for writing some of the most amazing comics of his era. For over 30 years, Pekar has created comic stories that do nothing more than discuss the events that happen in his everyday life, but do so in a way that is somehow transcendent.

What's more, Pekar goes out of his way to present himself as an ordinary man with ordinary flaws and concerns. There have been innumerable stories in which Pekar is petty, or weird, or obsessive. But, of course, those are the stories to which everybody can relate. We're all human, we all have our foibles, and Pekar is a master at sharing his experiences in ways to which we can all relate.

Take the lead story in this issue, "Events that Set the Tone for the Day". The story begins with an eight-panel page in which Harvey calls a friend to determine the best way to get to an upcoming doctor's appointment. Harvey knows he's being obsessive about all the little details, but he can't help himself. He knows he's wired to worry about details, so Harvey obsesses.

As events unfold, something unpredictable happens. Harvey's day gets upset because a rotten, unforeseen event happens: his car runs out of battery. So a friendly receptionist lends Harvey her AAA card. He gets a jump start, and voila! Problem solved.

That's one of those little nothing stories that happen every day. It's important when it happens to you; in fact, it's earthshaking to you when your car won't start. But it's not the sort of thing one ordinarily finds in comics form. It takes a creator of Pekar's insight and intelligence to create a story about such events that is thoroughly interesting.

Darick Robertson does an outstanding job with the art in this story. That shouldn't be a surprise, as much of the joy of The Boys comes from Robertson's wonderful ability to bring his characters to life. Here Robertson is outstanding at conveying Pekar's emotional intensity at as events unfold. The image of Harvey at the top of page three is outstanding in its simple evocation of Harvey's complex emotions.

But hey, readers get more stories this issue! The other five stories all tie together under the loose title of "Free Association". Well, maybe "tie together" isn't the right tem to use here. They're kind of grouped together loosely because they all happened to Harvey in one day. On the same day his wife finished their taxes, he got his car bumper fixed, and he organized some records. Nothing too eventful, nothing too special.

But it's those small moments in life that fill our lives with their eventfulness. The big moments happen rarely; it's the small moments that really matter.

I never get tired of reading Harvey celebrate the small moments.

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