Niklas Asker, writer/artist
Top Shelf, March 2009
A sexily drawn story of how hard it is for sexy young people with glamorous careers in the arts to really connect with one another? Sure, I’ll eat it, though I’d understand if you’d prefer to pass. Second Thoughts isn’t exactly the sort of tear-down-the-sky take on this well-trodden slice-of-life litcomix subgenre that might cause you to reevaluate it if you’d grown tired of it in the past. What it is is an extremely well-executed example of it, with a surprising degree narrative complexity, subtle enough to be imperceptible to me until I read the back-cover copy after finishing my first read.
In retrospect, Asker tips his hand by first introducing Jess, one of the book’s two main characters, this one a writer struggling with a project and making a long-distance call to a touring musician girlfriend who’s clearly cheating on her. Jess then meets cute at the airport with John, a music photographer on the outs with his touring musician girlfriend and on his way out of town for good who not-so-surreptitiously snaps a photo of Jess as she waits for her girlfriend to return. Jess’s girlfriend texts to say she missed her flight in, John’s flight out gets cancelled, and the two go their separate ways, not meeting again until they both end up in bed together–but neither in the way you’re thinking now, nor in the way I thought when I first read that scene. Along the way a few of the character names change from one thing to another, and that’s all I’ll say about that.
Second Thoughts‘s primary selling point is Asker’s luxurious, inky art. He’s working in a style that will be familiar to fans of Paul Pope or Farel Dalrymple, but ratcheted down in a realist direction, evoking, say, some of Craig Thompson’s Blutch-ier stuff. Everything’s dark and shiny, the characters are all attractive in the sort of way that leaves you idly daydreaming about what it’d be like to make out with them…the book feels like the sort of thing meant to be read at night in an apartment in the city with cigarettes and a glass of wine–the sort of thing meant to be read by the characters involved, in other words. Which ends up being really fitting, because the whole idea is the way the mysterious glamour of attractive strangers enables us to conjure up whole lives for them in a way that is really more a commentary on our own lives than on theirs. It’s a nice place to visit.