Review: The Alcoholic

Published on December 14th, 2010

Here we are, another Tuesday. Time goes by so fast doesn’t it? Enough of that, Tuesdays are good because I get to share the most recent Trade I’ve read with you lovely Comic Impact friends, and I thank you for it. And what did I read today, you ask? Well you should know already because it’s in the title of the article. Moving on, my pal and fellow Comic Impact writer, Ian loaned me a bunch of his trades and the one that looked the most interesting to me was The Alcoholic, a graphic novel written by Jonathan Ames (he created that show on HBO called Bored to Death) with art by Dean Haspiel.

thealcoholicSo this book goes through the life of main character Jonathan A. (what a coincidence that the main character’s name is so similar to the author’s) from the time he first starts drinking alcohol in High School to a random point in his life that leaves the book at a decent cliffhanger. The story actually starts off when he essentially hits rock bottom when he’s an adult and awakes one night in an old homeless woman’s car who is trying to have sex with him. It then cuts back to the first time he got drunk with his best friend, Sal. After their first time getting drunk the two best friends spend every weekend getting drunk, and even share their first gay experience together. After this event the two try to forget it and live life as normal as they can. The two get girlfriends and spend the rest of their High School career as best friends, until one day Sal decides to cut off his friendship with Jonathan and the two lose touch for six years.

After High School Jonathan gets accepted to Yale and while drinking the whole time graduates with a “C” average. Then Jonathan’s parents are killed and he goes into a depression. After visiting with his favorite Aunt, Sadie, he decides to move to Paris and spends some time there writing, drinking, and living with a woman. Jonathan returns to the U.S. and after a drunken night spent with a gay drug dealer Jonathan decides to do to rehab and spends the next decade or so sober. When he gets sober Jonathan tracks down Sal to find out why they stopped being friends and finds out that Sal was in love with him and couldn’t stand to be with someone he couldn’t have.

Jonathan then starts to get his life together and becomes a published author and makes a living writing mystery novels. Then Jonathan starts losing his hair and meets a woman who’s name we never learn and Jonathan becomes obsessed with. They meet when he’s in his late 30’s and she’s in her early 20’s They have a relation for a while, but eventually the age difference causes her to leave him. As the years go by he becomes more obsessed with her as she jumps in and out of his life and he becomes her “bitch.” This causes him to start drinking again, and he spends his life writing, drinking, and obsessing over his lost loves that consist of his best friend who won’t talk to him, and a woman that teases him with phone calls when he’s not home. Eventually Jonathan starts getting into coke, which leads to heroine and irritable bowel syndrome.

The book continues to follow Jonathan’s life through 9/11 and how he copes with living in New York during the event and losing friends, and eventually his best friend, Sal to AIDS. Jonathan goes deeper into his addictions until his beloved Aunt injures herself and nobody is able to reach him for two days. When he finally gets to his Aunt she forgives him immediately and shares the advice, “nobody gets everything they want.”  He takes the advice to heart and is able to let go of his dead friend and the woman he can never have. The book ends with him proclaiming that he will never drink again, while he is standing in front of a bar.

Okay, so once in a while it’s nice to read a comic that isn’t about superheroes. Once in a while. I did really enjoy this book, it’s one of those really awkward and sad stories that you’re somehow able to find humor in, and at times can be a very touching story. There’s a lot of speculation that this book is kind of an autobiography from Jonathan Ames which if it is makes me feel very sorry for that guy. This story can get very depressing at times, and the stuff that brings it up only brings it up to a point that is just bearable. The art fits the story perfectly and the artist does a really good job of expressing what this guy goes through and I especially like how everybody turns into a rat at the coke parties. The best is when Jonathan gets really drunk he’s able to express how disorienting things get through his drawings. Overall I liked this book, but it wouldn’t make it into my top ten graphic novels. It is worth a read though and you can get it pretty cheap at Amazon.

Ken Zeider
Ken@ComicImpact.com