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Sunday Book review: "Spent"

"Spent" by Joe Matt is a little book with big problems. It's about a self-loathing, chronic- masturbating, penny-pinching comic book artist who is writing a book about a self-loathing, chronic-masturbating, penny-pinching, comic book artist. And it does a pretty good job of encapsulating everything that is wrong with underground comics.

I kept waiting for a story - any story - to emerge. None ever did. The whole book consists of the main character, Joe Matt, dubbing porn, complaining and urinating in a jar. If I wanted to spend time with someone like that, I wouldn't read this book. I'd visit my grandfather. At least he has some funny stories.

The bulk of the book takes place in mid-nineties Toronto, during the years that Joe Matt was living illegally here. But, really, it could take place anywhere. The settings are as irrelevant as the non-existent story. The characters are the focal point but Matt doesn't do anything with them that we haven't seen Robert Crumb or Harvey Pekar do much better.

Even the art is weak, using the same two panels across and four panels down on every single page. This would be fine if "Spent" had something else to fall back on. It doesn't.

The back of the book refers to Matt as a "comedic genius" and maybe he is. But I'm not. Perhaps that explains why I didn't laugh once or even crack a smile. Except for when it was finally over. I was pretty happy then.


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