Saturday, October 22, 2022

Minis: Jenny Zervakis' Love and other Crack-ups, Part 1

There is always a sense of immediacy with Jenny Zervakis' comics and zines. Her latest, Love and other Crack-ups, is about her romantic relationships from college. It's based on some old letters she found in her attic, reminding her of the details of these relationships. The zine is a mix of text and comics, printing some of the letters verbatim, along with some additional comments. It's a window into the mind of a young woman in college and is interesting for that reason, but as always, it's her comics about her memories that are of greatest interest. 

While Zervakis is rarely afraid to share her thoughts and feelings in her comics, it's usually a bit more oblique and less than direct than it is in this comic. What comes through most in the comics is her biting wit and unvarnished sincerity. This is a look at a young person's first real encounters with love, and as such it's embarrassing, tender, and feels intensely dramatic. Zervakis keeps her drawings loose and scribbly, which works out well with regard to her storytelling. Her self-caricature as a college-age teen is expressive, and her short hair allows her a lot of different angles to work from. My favorite of the strips is the one about Aaron, her first true love in college. It's practically a rom-com! She loses her virginity to him but gets a UTI. She goes to a Halloween party dressed as a dinosaur (tail and all) and gets rejected by him. She has to deal with his general ambivalence, breaks it off, and takes no solace when she learns he has his heart broken by someone else. It's a classic Zervakis story as well: funny, vulnerable, a little awkward, and expertly told with linework that emphasizes gesture above all else. 

Zervakis shows off her drawing chops with drawings from a Scotland trip with the third boyfriend mentioned here, a long-term one with a guy named Jack. This also has rom-com vibes, with Jack's best friend asking her out prior to them getting together. Zervakis only sees him as a friend, which causes drama between them. In retrospect, she saw the cracks forming between them, since he had no interest in hanging out with her friends or family, but there's a change in the storytelling that reflects a more serious and settled relationship. Zervakis really gets at the heart of relationship dynamics in an interesting way. 

The text from the letters is interesting on its own, although toward the end, the balance she established earlier in the zine starts to skew heavily toward text over comics. Zervakis also ends the issue rather abruptly, but there is a promise of another issue in the future. This was an interesting experiment to see her focus on such a specific theme, as opposed to the looser and more poetic nature of her Strange Growths comics. 

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