the guardian Tue 22 May 2012
The stubborn, eloquent and curious Pekar spent his life in Cleveland, Ohio, working as a clerk and writing comics that celebrated the strangeness of everyday life. He died in 2010, and this posthumous graphic work is half straightforward memoir, half history of Cleveland, reaching from the city's founding at the malaria-ravaged mouth of the Cuyahoga River through steel production, baseball, riots and Pekar's childhood in a hardworking Polish-Jewish household. The historical material does a decent job of putting Cleveland ("the mistake by the lake" to its detractors) and Pekar in context. But this linear account doesn't really suit Pekar's style, which is best when it has some detail to dig into, and it's a relief when a familiar figure appears. The narrative revisits earlier work, introducing co-workers, girlfriends and acquaintances whose stories filled Pekar's comics, colouring in the life of this compelling American intellectual. Remnant's illustrations work brilliantly, framing city streets and conversations with evocative shading and well-observed detail.