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If Harvey Pekar of American Splendor fame is the king of the life-long ongoing graphic biography, Carol Tyler is the queen. While Pekar writes about the manly, male hunter, cut-throat world of filing medical records and worrying about how to pay the bills, Tyler writes about the more traditionally female pursuits of motherhood, squeezing in a career and worrying about how to pay the bills.
This volume pulls together a series of Tyler's strips, telling stories ranging from her childhood to the present. Its obvious female perspective is something that isn't often portrayed in such a refreshingly honest and natural way in comics, but this gives it a universalism that will ring empathetic bells with readers of both sexes, particularly those who've reached a similar stage in their lives and understand the double-edged nature of parenthood.
Tyler's drawing is as disarmingly honest as her writing, hiding little behind her caricatures. The stories are set out chronologically, allowing her life to unfold as you move through the book's pages, though this does mean that the styles can flit about a bit - we suspect that some of her earlier stories aren't always necessarily those she drew first, if you see what we mean. However, this gives the book a flow and balance that would otherwise make it unfathomable.
Biography has been big business in the comic book market over the last couple of years but it's been a largely male-focused business. Tyler brings a waft of fresh air to the genre with Late Bloomer, looking at elements of the human condition that the boys have simply left out. And while this should certainly appeal to female readers who enjoy peeking into the lives of others, the male side of the fence shouldn't dismiss it, particularly if you've got wives, girlfriends and daughters. Insights that delve this deep into the female psyche just don't show up that often in comics, and Tyler's work is an invaluable addition.
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