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The Comic Book Guide to the Mission is a difficult book to review because it is really is a tour guide, and as I’ve never been to the Mission, I can’t tell how well it guides you through the Mission, and that’s what a tour guide is supposed to do, isn’t it? I suppose our own Ms. Harris could tell us how well it gives you a sense of this San Francisco neighborhood, but she’s not here, is she? She’s off being productive, so it falls to me!
I can say it’s a fun book. Lauren Davis has assembled a lot of nice talent to write and draw stories about the Mission, and for someone who hasn’t been there, I feel like I got a good sense of the neighborhood and why people love it so much. The creators don’t paint a completely rosy picture of the area, too, which is nice – the entire scene is here, warts and all, and it’s part of why this is an effective comic. We don’t get a sense that the creators are trying to draw an idealized portrait of the Mission, so their love of it feels a bit more genuine – they know some things are not so great, but they still think it’s a groovy place.
I’m not going to go over all the stories, because some aren’t as good as others and some are very literally guides to the neighborhood – there’s one that tells you where to pick up cheap clothing, for instance – and aren’t narratives in any sense of the word. Other creators tell stories about their own experiences in the Mission, so they work both as a story and a guide. My favorite story in the collection is probably “The Mission Taco” by Omar Mamoon and Greg Hinkle. Hinkle’s loose art is perfectly cartoony yet solid enough for the grittiness of the Mission, while Mamoon’s story about finding the perfect taco is very funny. You can read the story here, if you’re interested.
Other highlights include: “Field Notes from the Hipster Habitat,” in which Matt Stewart tells a short story about his annoyance with the hipsters in the Mission. It’s a clever story because Stewart can never really hate the people around him, and this tug-of-war is evident in his prose. John Mathis is a really good artist, with an excellent eye for his surroundings and a good sense of clothing and decoration. His art makes Stewart’s somewhat biting commentary even more real. “Murray the Attorney” is the second story in the collection, and it’s a good place for it, as it immediately follows a glowing story about the Mission with Murray’s somewhat jaundiced view of life there – he’s not terribly trendy, but by the end of the story, he’s been accepted by the cooler people in the Mission because they realize that maybe they shouldn’t judge people by how many piercings they have. Clint Woods and Nomi Kane do a nice job with this story. Geoff Vasile’s story, “Down on Mission Street,” is another anti-hipster story, but it’s funny and has a clever twist at the end of it. Plus, it also shows some of the less trendy sections of the neighborhood. “SF Dyke March” by Ariel Schrag is a very funny look at a lesbian out on the streets of the Mission, and Schrag’s cartoony art fits the tone of the story very well. Finally, “Eight Blocks” by Jen Oaks is a clever walking tour through the Mission that nails the problems of writer’s block perfectly.
There are a lot of other short stories in the book – a guide to the murals of the Mission, the aforementioned guide to clothes shopping – and most of them are pretty good. Aindrila Mukhopadhyay also contributes several beautiful drawings of landmarks around the neighborhood, interspersed throughout the collection (her photos are here). It’s a very nice package for 15 dollars.
You can find out more about the book at Skoda Man Press, which publishes it. It’s neat way to learn about a part of a city, and it would be neat to see other creators in other cities do something like it. Of course, the one for Phoenix would be all about sitting around trying not to die from heat stroke, but it might work for other cities!
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