Jay Naylor certainly has been a target of controversy. He has been accused of being racist and sexist and of using the comic to attack people he knows in real life. In interviews and on his blog, he doesn't always come across as a particularly nice person. But judged on its own merits, how does Better Days hold up? Pretty well, actually, although the early chapters fare a lot better than later material. It was my introduction to the Slice Of Life comic and it does it very well, following Fisk and Lucy at various points during their life. And a rough life it is too, because withing a few chapters we've hit terrorism, child abuse, rape and incest. It's not always subtle, but I like how Naylor has the guts to meet these subjects head-on, especially the incest, which is shown in a more nuanced light instead of either simple titillation or something abominable, like usually. For me, this was the most interesting turn of the comic. Nuance, alas, is something we don't find a lot of, especially in later chapters. Fisk joins the military. Fisk joins a paramilitary organisation. Fisk kills some mobsters. There is no subtlety and nothing of interest. His girlfriend Beth is suddenly revealed to be polyamorous and this is treated as if we've known it all along... even though we haven't. Lucy's storyline fares slightly better. Realising she can never be with Fisk, she starts a relationship with Tommy and here Naylor has Tommy boldly renounce his faith. How often does this happen in fiction as a positive thing? All in all, it's a comic that is more often than not crushingly unsubtle, but much of it has an odd charm. Unfortunately, sometimes unpleasant subtext creeps in. I don't think Naylor is racist, but using hyenas as an analogue to black people is questionable choice and their portrayal seems a bit stereotypical at times. Likewise, women are sometimes portrayed oddly, such as when Sheila defines women's rights as the right to give a man "such a hard orgasm that he won't be able walk for a day"... What. For better or worse, it's a comic that shows the creator baring his soul. It's not always pleasant, but it's worth a look.
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