Empire State by Jason Shiga

Empire State: A Love Story (or Not)
by Jason Shiga
Abrams Comicarts, 2011

Shy, aimless 25-year old Jimmy follows his best friend Sara from Oakland to New York, and finds her establishing an adult career with a rather sophisticated boyfriend. Jimmy can still see the beauty of the world around him, but is painfully aware that he should be an adult by now – he doesn’t have a bank account, and his mother is pressuring him for grandchildren. He tells her he’s going to New York for a web design job interview at Google, but he’s never heard of Dreamweaver. He’s hopelessly outclassed by real life, but seems resigned to it all.

Shiga’s round-headed characters occupy a world familiar to anyone who’s read the original Generation X by Douglas Coupland, except instead of blaming the Boomers for their problems, this younger generation realize their malaise is self-inflicted, although the rules of life have changed to the extent that it would require a Herculean effort to achieve even a modest fraction of what older generations have taken for granted.

The slightly numbed air of the story is aided by scattering panels sparingly over the pages, and the colour palette is restricted to shades of red (in Oakland) and light blue (in New York), which makes the simple and clear artwork surprisingly lush.


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