By Harvey Pekar and Heather Roberson. Illustrated by Ed Piskor. <i>Villard. $17.95.</i>

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Harvey Pekar is best known for his navel-gazing comic series, American Splendor, in which he enlists celebrated artists to illustrate tales of his humdrum life in Cleveland. His latest graphic novel is a departure from that trusty format. Instead of following a grousing Pekar, it tells the true-life story of Heather Roberson, an optimistic Berkeley peace studies major who travels to Macedonia in hopes of using the country’s avoidance of the post-Yugoslavian bloodshed to prove that “war isn’t, y’know, inevitable.”

Pekar, Roberson, and 25-year-old illustrator Ed Piskor are an interesting trio of talents, but they don’t mesh as Pekar did with previous collaborators such as R. Crumb and Joe Sacco. Perhaps that’s because Pekar’s not writing about himself or because Piskor has never seen Macedonia. It doesn’t help that Roberson’s research, the basis of the script, makes Pekar’s life as a filing clerk seem downright stimulating. While she delivers lengthy manifestos on Balkan history, Piskor draws her talking into her tape recorder in her hotel room. (Not that international affairs and comics can’t mix—just see Sacco’s masterpieces Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde or Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.)

Roberson does learn how the Macedonians avoided going to war, but there’s no big payoff. The most memorable parts of her trip involve getting cheated, being accosted by strange men, and looking for a decent cup of coffee. At these times, you can feel the old Pekar peeking through the pages, chronicling the endless frustrations of everyday life.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend