You start with one school day in 1970s Omaha, and a universe of quotidian tragedies expands from there. Interlocking narratives bring preteen social rejects, high school bullies, and teachers of varying levels of honor from youth to maturity and beyond. And all in the unmistakable style of Chris Ware: graphic panels to be read with the same care as the greatest traditional prose, exploding the depicted mundanities into cubist journeys toward the past, the future, and the imagination. (See the throwback Martian sci-fi narrative in the middle of the book for just one example.) Few comics artists command Ware’s widespread respect, from audiences with only glancing interest in the form to those most steeped in its history as both “low” and “high” art. Rusty Brown (Pantheon, $35) is the first volume of a magnum opus, compiling pieces Ware has been slowly releasing since first beginning the project in 2001, immediately following publication of his breakthrough Jimmy Corrigan. That protracted timespan sits profoundly on each page, where every frame, whether immense or miniature, feels like a home — maybe not the home his characters would always want, but the one they’ve come to accept for themselves all the same.
Rusty Brown by Chris Ware