It takes a certain twisted sense of humor to enjoy off-color comics. I’ve thought about this a lot and come to the conclusion that if you can see the pain at the root of the humorous situations you can enjoy it no matter what. I loved Megahex, the first collection of Megg and Mogg published by Fantagraphics Publishing, and had the opportunity to review the latest collection this week. Does it continue to be just as hilarious and awkward?
Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam (Fantagraphics Publishing)
Like I said, the first collection was a riot. So what is this about? According to Fantagraphics Publishing:
Megg the witch, Mogg the cat, their friend Owl, and Werewolf Jones struggle unsuccessfully with their depression, drug use, sexuality, poverty, lack of ambition, and their complex feelings about each other. It’s a laff riot! Fresh off their star turn in the New York Times best sellerMegahex, Megg and Mogg decide to take a trip to Amsterdam for some quality couple time, although the trip gets off to a rocky start when they forget their antidepressants. They need Owl to come and help them save their relationship. But why does he have a suitcase full of glass dildos? And what will they do when they realize that the housesitting Werewolf Jones has turned their apartment into a “f#@k zone”? Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam collects all of Simon Hanselmann’s contributions to Vice.com, the Ignatz Award-nominated short story “St. Owl’s Bay,” and other surprises that will add additional color and background for fans of Megahex.
Why does this book matter?
This is a deeply rich comic strip in large part because it feels so genuine. You have to wonder how many of these stories are torn from Simon Hanselmann’s personal life. In this volume Megg deals with some very serious depression and her relationship with Mogg is pushed to the brink.
These kids are a terror and are hilarious.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
There are still many jokes revolving around Megg, Mogg and others giving Owl a really hard time. He’s reduced to tears, his life is ruined, and he’s generally always embarrassed by these characters and that’s downright hilarious. Two new elements work incredibly well to add new humorous elements like Werewolf Jones’ kids (who seemed to always have candy caked mouths) and Megg’s female friend Booger gets more play as well.
The art changes much more than in Megahex here as Hanselmann plays around with layouts (like two 35 panel pages showing us Mogg’s dream), but still maintains the custom 12 panel per page strips this series is known for. Bottom line is the comedic timing continues to be flawless and as tensions build and jokes reach their crescendo the humor never falters.
In one of the best sequences, Hanselmann sets up a hangout between Megg and her girlfriend as she’s fed up watching her friends play what is basically Grand Theft Auto. The story takes Megg off the couch which is refreshing, but the best part is we see just how maladjusted she is. She’s terrible at being an average person with any modicum of manners. Attending a “Crafternoon” get together thrown by Megg’s friend Booger’s sister we quickly see things fall apart. They arrive having already eaten—which seems to be one of the biggest issues the hostess has—and quickly find themselves ignoring the guests outside. It’s delightfully awkward and I’m sure most readers can relate. Who hasn’t gone to a party and felt completely out of their element?
While this book is about 30 pages shorter than Megahex it ends with the reader feeling like they know Megg more than they did in the previous volume. She goes through a lot of shit in this book and reaches the brink more than once. She does bad things, reflects on them, and feels bad about a lot of what she does. It ends in a very sad way and leaves you wanting to know what happens to Megg next. Most importantly there’s some major character development over the course of this book which makes the story feel more valuable than a comic strip with a formulaic gag or two. In one sequence Mogg asks Megg to eat his butt and it gets awkward really fast. Though Mogg is a cat and Megg a witch you see at what lengths couples go through to make the other happy and how we might do things that could eventually doom the relationship. Scenes like this are littered throughout the volume to show Megg’s depression doesn’t come out of nowhere.
That’s not to say this book isn’t hilarious, because it really is—from Werewolf Jones and his horrible parenting, to Mogg losing his antidepressants in Amsterdam, and of course the tried and true Owl losing it with his horrible friends making his life miserable.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The story is more reliable and develops more, but I’m not sure I laughed quite as much as I did when reading Megahex. I still laughed quite a bit, but there’s certainly more sadness in this volume (which some might argue makes this stronger for it), which you should be aware of going into this if you read the first volume.
Once again this is adult only comics. There are of course drugs, full frontal nudity, and plenty of sexual themes throughout this book. It’s not necessarily a negative, but it should be noted!
It gets pretty sad folks.
Is It Good?
There isn’t anything else like this series on the stands, which makes this a gem. It’s dirty, with lots of drug, sex and adult themes throughout. It’s also incredibly funny, but at the same time hits at a sorrowful core I think many can relate to. Using a werewolf, a talking owl, a witch, and a talking cat Hanselmann has created a world we can relate to without any judgment.