Jennifer Hayden‘s autobiographical slice-of-life comics fall into a well-known genre, but her position — as the middle-aged mother of two — provides a viewpoint we don’t often see expressed in comics from such a position of knowledge.

Underwire began as a webcomic, and this Top Shelf collection includes 22 of those stories, plus 17 new pages. She tells tales about her family, influenced by sitcom structure. How can you not enjoy cartoons by someone who compares being middle-aged to “like being on mushrooms”?


The introduction, by Dean Haspiel, tells how Underwire came to be and praises Hayden’s illustrative strengths, while Hayden’s own foreword talks about her artistic development. Her strips are captioned with her thoughts and observations, while the panels contain stippled pen-and-ink drawings of the moment.

She and her daughter get sandwiches, or she and her husband both dream about making out, or she copes with a son with ADHD. Sometimes she thinks about the life she planned when she was younger or shows us the choices her daughter is making about her own life. Her artistic visions can be very stereotypically hippy, at times, and the single-page illustrations of fertility goddesses back up that impression. I preferred the more domestic moments as more in tune with my life and concerns, such as when she visits a club with her daughter where her family has been members for generations during the holidays (the longest and best story in the book, in my opinion), or she and her husband celebrate their anniversary.

Underwire is due in October and can be ordered from a comic store with Diamond code AUG11 1205. The publisher’s website has a preview. (They provided a digital review copy.)

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