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Compulsive Comics collects the very best Eric Haven’s singular brand of inverted-comic book-consciousness and genre-bending short stories. Haven’s comics, at first glance, look like standard genre fiction, but upon closer reflection become as disorienting as a house of mirrors, as layers are peeled back and worlds behind worlds are revealed. Haven undermines the expectations of familiar comic book genres, whether science fiction, western, fantasy, or even autobiography. “The Glacier” is about a lone scientist making a startling discovery in the ice, though quickly becomes a meditation on man’s insignificance in the universe. “Mammology” begins as a wordless comic about the dinosaurs before catapulting forward to the author’s present day apartment, where a secret, ancient war between reptiles and mammals is revealed.
The volume’s most controversial story, “I Killed Dan Clowes” is an epic conflation of autobio and fantasy. While driving around Oakland, ruminating on the history of underground comics in the Bay Area, the main character fatally hits acclaimed graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. After convincing his partner to help him hide the body, he immediately goes on to accidentally kill another fan favorite, Adrian Tomine. The two spirits meet in the afterlife and, because God likes their comics, are able to return to Earth to exact revenge. Haven’s surrealist, self-reflexive, and superbly rendered comics surprise at every turn and showcase an inherent joy for the comics medium.