Staff Picks (June): Dementia 21 GN

If you’re a fan of Junji Ito’s works, if you had weird shivers watching Akira, if you were fascinated by Human Centipede, let me introduce you to a new friend. Creator Shintaro Kago pioneers the far fringes of horror and its most inappropriate intersections with humor or with eroticism in an unsettling mix he calls “fashionable paranoia.” He is artistically fascinated with the human body, not just the pretty stuff on the outside but the mass and meat of the matter beneath the skin. A “guro” manga creator, Kago’s works all revolve around ultra-accurate anatomy, and he takes a dreadful delight in pulling that anatomy inside out. Traditional Hollywood horror movies tend to stick with the “acceptable” innards: blood, brains, intestines. Kago’s corpses are gleefully full of stool, of semen, and of secrets; his short stories pull no punches.

Dementia 21 sets up a distorted Disneyland of gruesome, geriatric terror. Our heroine is powerless before an entire retirement community of nightmare Nanas and petrifying PopPops. Yukie is responsible for their care, their happiness, and their lives, but can no more control their paranormal abilities than she can reverse time. A servant at the bedside of the bizarre, she fights a war of diaper changes and sponge baths that she cannot win. Daunted, but determined, she will never abandon her post, even if one million grandmas are dumped at her doorstep.

Yet, even in the midst of this surrealist horror, Kago is laughing at us. We all grow old. We all lose some portion of dignity. He uses Dementia 21 to not only explore our fears of abandonment or of senility, but to press so far into the absurd, that fear stops and dark humor takes hold. Old men turn into piles of dentures; old women team up by the hundreds to whoop their brats’ butts; folks become so senile they bend all of reality out of existence! Unsettling and grotesque, outlandish and wild, Dementia 21 is the comics equivalent of elderly LSD.

Sarah Martinez

Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
Item Code: JUN181751
Release Date: 8/29/18
SRP: $24.99

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Staff Picks (October): The Night (La Nuit) HC

Recommended by Leigh Tyberg
La Nuit is a beautifully rendered reminder that everything ends, and time comes for us all. If you’ve ever grieved a loved one’s passing, this book will resonate with you.