Akbar and Jeff’s Guide to Life by Matt Groening (229x229mm)
All the previous Life in Hell collections had been themed (Work/Love/School/Childhood), and I guess this one is, too — but it focuses on these characters (“brothers or lovers or both?”, as the saying went in the early days of Life in Hell) instead of, er, a topic.
I feel the humour in the Akbar & Jeff strips is subtly different from the Binky/Bongo strips — the latter are often very personal, with Groening talking about his own life (and especially his childhood) a lot (although somewhat coded). With Akbar & Jeff, Groening is free to be sillier (and funnier, in my opinion).
Hey! Is Bongo a unicorn!?
(I love that glade.)
The main reoccurring gag with Akbar & Jeff is their many, many business ventures. They’re so good at combining ventures: “Yes we sell cooking lard!!!”. It’s no wonder the Washington Post made this comparison:
Along with the lower personal identification, I guess, comes the freedom to kill off Akbar & Jeff sometimes, which can seem pretty callous in context…
Interestingly, Lynda Barry wrote a version that’s less nihilistic and more touching. But still…
Groening didn’t kill them off a lot, though — are these strips the only ones?
Groening doesn’t do topical political stuff a lot, but weirdly enough, they print a strip from 1984 that comments on the then-recently revealed CIA manual.
I may not have re-read this book since the 80s — I totally forgot that Akbar & Jeff got three nephews (or one nephew and his two friends).
Groening does a comment on AIDS.
Anyway, this is a wonderful book, and (if I remember correctly) the last of the “classic” Life in Hell books… but I guess I’ll find out when I read the next one in a couple of weeks.
This blog post is part of the Punk Comix series.