Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore (2018)


L: 5.5/10
M: 7.5/10
J: 6.5/10


Analysis of that terrible depression you feel as you unpack after a vacation:

I had first heard of Your Black Friend and Other Strangers a few years ago when it first came out. I have been looking forward to reading it for some time, keeping it on a list on my phone but never getting around to picking it up. I first heard its high praises from a comic book podcast hosted by the guys who run my not-very local shop in Ann Arbor. I’ve had great success with following their monthly book suggestions, but for some reason, this ain’t it.

The titular story, Your Black Friend, had my intrigue high and my excitement level bubbling, but as the collection of stories went on, my eagerness and motivation started to plummet. I like plenty of underground-styled comics, where a large bit of them are assemblages of the writer’s brain, collected into a nice little book. YBL is all over the place, with maybe half or so centered around racial inequality and whatever the political landscape has morphed into. It would be fantastic to find this material dated and confusingly lost in time, but sadly this will be ever so relevant for decades to come.

There is a lot to unpack with this collection. A couple of points were lost on me in the second half, but I was ready to get out, so I didn’t bother doing too much research. Ben Passmore is a good artist, and his style fits what’s he’s trying to accomplish. I would have enjoyed this more if he had a more structurally linear style, building off the first story and not going down a political wormhole. I could have read several more chapters in the vein of the first story, not a random story about banging an old lady when he was a rickshaw driver (Ally Need is Love). I can appreciate the sheer lunacy of his psyche severing into different personalities while debating the merits of polyamory (Goodbye).

I seem to care less about things these days, less so than I did back when I barely cared at all. I jam my days full of enough nonsense to give a reason for my feet to make contact with the floor next to my bed. There is a lot to care about in YBF, and I feel silly just going, “Meh, it’s ok.” Especially being incredibly privileged and doing very little with it besides merely existing. The art is good, and Ben Passmore is clearly talented; I will leave it with that.

Analysis of a brush full of post-Covid shred hair:

I really enjoyed this read. It was informative and snarky and filled with captivating artistry. I have a hard time throwing my opinions around on a topic I have no business breaking down; however, I did feel a bit more educated and curious, having finished, which is probably the goal of it all.

I would have to say that the first story was by far my favorite. I even went online and ordered a copy for my sister, as we are two people who have had many conversations about such things. I would read an entire book in keeping with the theme of the first story and truly wish that would have been the case. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t find the other stories interesting because I did.

There is an arrogance to his writing that I find both appealing and off-putting at various times. I don’t know that I would enjoy a lecture or any one on one time with him, but I’ll read whatever he writes.

Analysis of an audible disruption in the bushes:

I don’t even know what to write for this conglomeration of stories. The first mistake I made was thinking that this was going to be my “vacation read” while I was sunbathing in Florida. Instead of maxin’ and relaxin’, I found that the heft of the issues provided in the comics were weighty… and not comical. At one point, I even looked back at the publication date because it is so relevant to what is going on now!

I have to be real in that I was sometimes confused with what I had just read. Some of the comics have the “moral of the story,” slapping you in the face by the end, but a few of them made me just believe I am not well enough educated or knowledgeable of some issues. I like that there are historical references to be made, and, having looked up some of those, the pieces made more sense. And perhaps that is a good thing… to be compelled to look up some of the citations? At least it proves I am a person with a growth mindset.

While I would by no means call the illustrations beautiful, I thought they did a great job of enforcing the message in a non-threatening but real-feeling way. I really wish I would have spent some more time taking in the text/illustrations as I read than I did. Maybe part of me was fearful that if I read too deeply, I would become a full anarchist or reflect too deeply on my role in the oppression or exultation of some of these issues. But I also liked reading a book that made me a little uncomfortable. You’re never growing in your comfort zone, right?

Ben Passmore