Liz Prince's new collection "Alone Forever" gathers together short comics drawn with a unifying theme: being single. But before you start backing away thinking that this going to be either a "woe is me" misery fest or a "I'm single and fabulous!" explosion, turn off the internal alarm. "Alone Forever" is pretty darn funny, even while maintaining a slight melancholic streak from start to finish.
While the main thrust of "Alone Forever" is about being single, what's great is that Prince has such a good sense of humor about the entire endeavor. In one story when talking about the dating site OK Cupid, she draws herself with huge weepy eyes while thinking, "Still no message from Tacofan13? Why?!" Other times she talks about how she's all right with being single (when urged to ask out someone in a restaurant), then suddenly snaps a pencil in half and smashes through a wall screaming.
Mostly, though, "Alone Forever" is full of exasperation, and that's an emotion that carries comedy quite well. One of my favorite pieces in "Alone Forever" details all of Prince's OK Cupid dates, from the guy who got angry when she commented on how it had taken three months to schedule two dates, to the guy who was a horrible kisser and was also dating a friend of Prince's. There's no self-pity in this piece, just a sense of, "Really? Really?" going throughout it. It's funny and relatable, and it's hard to keep from both laughing and wincing as you read about her exploits in the dating world.
There's a nice mixture of formats in "Alone Forever," confounding those who might expect it to be solely single-page stories, or a series of comic strips. Clearly every new comic was approached from a fresh perspective by Prince; she mixes and matches what she wants (I love that some pages start and end with comic strips, but have large splash images sandwiched in-between them) in order to get her ideas across. Sometimes it's a multi-page story where Cupid is standing in for Lucy on a play on "Peanuts" and the old "pulling back the football" gag; other times it's a single image on the page that gets the entire idea across to the reader.
It doesn't hurt that Prince's art is simple and adorable. I love how she draws herself with a big head and a goofy grin (well, at least when she's not ready to destroy the world with race), and the big bushy beards on her favorite type of guy are great thanks to the squiggly nature of them. She's got a strong sense of visual timing here, too; each story is paced out just right, with a good understanding of where the punch line should land on the page, and how much space she should give to each panel. Don't let the simple style of Prince's art fool you; she's a natural in comic book storytelling.
"Alone Forever" is perfectly timed to give to your loved one, or your perpetually single friend, or perhaps just yourself (regardless of if you're single or not) -- it's a Valentine's Day gift for people of all walks of life, really. Leave "Alone Forever" on your coffee table and I promise you, before long you'll hear chuckles and groans of recognition as your guests start leafing through it. Good stuff.