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Stickleback
By Graham Annable
Published by Alternative Comics; $6.95 USD

"George Stickleback spends life in his apartment with his cat Patty surrounded by meticulously arranged men of toilet paper. A mission from the outside world to console a friend imposes an unwelcome break in Mr. Stickleback’s routine." This description of Stickleback from the Alternative Comics website pretty much sums up the plot of this book. This strange little book.

We enter the world of George Stickleback through his toilet-paper men; they're the first thing we see, occupying the entirety of the first panel, caught in the middle of some sort of kerfuffle or melee. From their size, we aren't in fact certain what the hell they are at first, but the toilet-paper men are important to George, and key, in their way, to the story. Also of great importance is George's cat -- Patty is the second character we meet, wreaking havoc on George's carefully staged toilet-paper man universe and sending George into a fit of apoplexy as the cat's claws shred one of the tiny, fragile, frankly stupid little creations.

He loves his kitty, you see, but -- he loves his toilet-paper men more.

They're stupid, they're goofy, they're little men made out of toilet paper, but to George, they seem to mean so much. Annable seems to enjoy torturing George, though -- his little men being ripped to shreds is the least of his problems by the end of the story. He is humiliated, disconcerted, and generally has his little life turned upside down. But through it all, he perseveres, heartened, inspired and motivated by...the little toilet paper men.

As a critic, you want to find meaning and depth in unexpected places. In Stickleback, I see a highly gifted cartoonist telling a really strange and compelling little story that I'm not really certain needed to be told, but that provides enough charm and amusement at a low price that I can't complain. Read that introductory description again, and know that rarely has a work been so bizarre and yet so holistic and complete as to leave me more or less speechless. Grade: 3.5/5

-- Alan David Doane



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