Welcome to the Dahlhouse by Ken Dahl is subtitled "Alienation, incarceration and inebriation in the new American Rome" and contains a string of short comics about growing old and angry in America. It also works pretty well as an scathing critique of George Bush's America and the decade of the naughts. Dahl is best known now for his autobiographical tale of an STD called Monsters, but this book is a great introduction to his cartooning talents.
Dahl starts off with a series of funny comics called "Old Punx Vs…" before shifting to a longer tale remembering his flight from San Francisco, California to Honolulu, Hawaii on September 11, 2002. It's a vivid description and critique of a time one year after the terrorist attacks on NYC and Washington DC. The targets of Dahl's anger and attention are varied though, the next lengthy piece runs through the history of zines and then lacerates the pretensions of those making zines simply to stroke their own ego. The centerpiece of the book, for me, feels like "The Origin of Army Guy" where a sad sack character decides to join the Army and gets a recruitment speech from a character that looks a lot like "Sarge" from Beatle Bailey. It's a funny, but extremely biting comic that delivers tough political critique in a funny way.
Much of the rest of the book is occupied by Dahl's alter ego, "Gordon Smalls" a lonely and alienated character who often narrates his day to, well us. Although maybe he's just crazy and talking to no one. Works either way I suppose. These comics are funny and get at another theme Dahl is interested in — the loss that comes with growing old. Whether it's trying to pick up skateboarding again or visiting the swingset at an empty park at night, there's something sad but universal about Gordon Smalls. Almost everyone has dreams, skills, or life experiences you just can't go back to as you get older.
I also love Dahl's artwork. Very expressive work and he shows a range of styles throughout this book.
The publisher provided a copy of the book to ComixTalk for review purposes.