Sunny Side Down
I picked this up from a bargain bin at Borders a while ago. In between buying it and actually reading it, I have becoming a fan of the webshow "Tales of Mere Existence" by Levni Yilmaz, the author of this book of cartoons. So I awaited reading this comic with a certain level of anticipation.
The comic didn't disappoint for me, but I must begin this review with a warning: Levni Yilmaz is both pessimistic and misanthropic, and it really shows in his comics. You may not realize it until you're several strips in thanks to Yilmaz's cartoony style, but this guy has got a view of the world which paints the human experience as being an entirely pointless series of disappointments and discouragements. If you can't handle such a negative view of life and humanity, this is not the comic for you.
If, however, you ever wished Matt Groening's "Life in Hell" was a little more cynical and showed a even more hopeless view of existence,this is the comic for you. Split into 5 chapters, each covering a different section of life (birth and childhood, school, early adulthood, romance, and adulthood, respectively), each page is a different comic on a different subject. Topics range from bullies (where Yilmaz puts forward a great point that many people tend to overlook while telling them that the bullies that torment them are cowards/will fail at life: that that is all well and good, but it doesn't really matter when they're currently beating you up) to first loves (and how they'll inevitably end up being more trouble than they're worth) to what happens when you discover you're never going to achieve your dreams.
What I think I liked the most about "Sunny Side Down" (besides the genuinely funny self depreciation that Yilmaz peppers the story with) is its universality: Yilmaz writes this book as if his audience is the human race as a whole, as if we can all identify immediately with his experiences of depression and disappointment. And you know what? It works! I found myself feeling bad for the poor guy to live a fulfilling life, while simultaneously wondeirng if my life is as pointless as Yilmaz;s. In one of my favorite comics in the collection, Yilmaz walks down the street speculating about how all of the men he sees must be doing so much better than he is, and guessing what cool and exciting things they are going to do that night. It ends with all of them seated in front of their respective TVs, watching television alone.
It's this feeling of identification with Yilmaz's cynicism that I liked the most, and it was the thing that really pushed me over the edge from liking it to loving it. If you see this around (particularly if, like me, you found it in the bargain bin), snatch it up. Also, be sure to check out Yilmaz's youtube videos, which are like animated versions of his comics. He posts under the name "AgentXPQ." Have fun feeling both sympathetic of and identifying with Yilmaz's "mere existence"!
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