Sure, flies perform the noble task of eating the world's shit, but who eats the shit of the fly? Same Difference opens with this bit of stoner profundity before tackling other equally weighty questions. Those "Oriental Flavor" ramen packets, for example; what exactly is "Oriental Flavor"? And why is it so easy to lie to a friend, and so tough to find true love?
photo: Derek Kirk Kim
The life aquatic: Derek Kirk Kim
Same Difference And Other Stories By Derek Kirk Kim
Top Shelf, 144 pp., $12.95
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In the title story, Simon Moore, the Korean American protagonist who one suspects is Kim's cartoon alter ego, wonders why he can't get a girl, relives his days of high school loserdom when he runs into a former classmate, and finds himself sucked into a female friend's quest to locate the mysterious oddball who is sending romantic gifts to her apartment. Kim has a fine pen for landscapes and facial expressions, and if the illustrations are vaguely manga-esque (Kim occasionally uses that genre's so-called "super-deformed" style), it's a uniquely Asian American suburban manga of Safeway stores, pho restaurants, and monster trucks.
Crushing self-pity has become a staple of some of the most worthy alternative comics (see Joe Matt, Chris Ware, et al.), and Kim gleefully wallows with the best of them. One of a small crop of webcomics artists who have made the jump to print, the Oakland-based artist recently scored the trifecta of the comics world, winning the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz for this debut work. It's a testament to his artistry that the scene of a high school kid transforming into a penisa cheap sight gag for just about anyone elseis actually one of the book's most tender moments.