The Fart Party Vol. 2 by Julia Wertz

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The Fart Party Volume 2
By Julia Wertz
Atomic Books

juliawertzfartparty2coverWhen I first discovered The Fart Party almost two years ago, I was exhilarated: This comic has the best title ever! And it’s about a short funny girl who likes cheese (like me)! And she isn’t afraid to talk about farting (like me)! I picked up the first volume of collected Fart Party comics—many of which originally appeared online, and have since late 2005—read it voraciously, and fell in love.

Unfortunately, this created two problems for me when reading the second volume, published this summer by Atomic Books. The first is that my expectations were too high. The Fart Party: Volume 2 is still incredibly amusing and a lot of fun, but sometimes it just feels like more of the same. Wertz tackles the everyday in a way that is often hilarious, occasionally profound, and always honest and weird. She can turn working a shitty waitressing job or sharing a high-five with a hobo into an engaging comic strip, a talent much more difficult and rare than some people might realize. And yet at times, the punch lines here feel slightly stale, or perhaps repetitious. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had read them before in the first Fart Party. I wanted the book to have an infusion of something new and different.

In fact, the plot is different—markedly so, as Wertz and her boyfriend Oliver go long distance at the end of the first volume and break up in this one. So she becomes single, and then she travels around the country and decides to move to Portland. At the very last minute Portland becomes Brooklyn, and that is where we’re left at the end of the book: saying goodbye to San Francisco and nervously anticipating Brooklyn.

One feels that this should be difference enough, but it isn’t quite. What does provide some welcome variety is a handful of strips where Wertz lets her more contemplative side show. Though this sort of thing wouldn’t work on a constant basis, the occasional action-less comic about, for instance, how fog sometimes makes her picture herself meeting a dinosaur and handing him half a sandwich is refreshing. A few contributions by and collaborations with cartoonist Laura Park also spice things up nicely, in part due to the contrast between Wertz’s and Park’s drawing styles. And, as with the first volume, this book’s Fart Party Fun Pages are very aptly named. They also provide a chance to read other types of comics Wertz has created, which in turn gives one a greater appreciation of her talents.

This seems especially important as a way of balancing out the stick figure travel diaries, which are what they sound like: stick-figure comics that Wertz sketched during her journeys around the U.S. While I understand they were drawn in transit, and while some of them are pretty funny, after a while, they grated on my nerves. Wertz may be giving us a glimpse into her artistic process, but that doesn’t necessarily work in the context of a larger, polished book. Could she have redrawn some of them? Included fewer? I don’t know.

Then again, maybe I’m just being overly critical because I feel so attached to The Fart Party—which leads me to that second problem I mentioned. Once you fall in love with a book, a comic, an artwork, etc., you begin to feel a certain possessiveness for it. This gets even trickier when the object of your affection is done in the first person; then you begin to feel close to—and ownership of—not just the story but the characters. Wertz has created a comic so awesome, so relatable, so damn first-person, that if you fall for it, as I and countless others have, you’ll start to feel like it’s yours. You’ll hold it to your own set of standards. But that isn’t actually Wertz’s problem, it’s ours. Because she will always be herself, her own character, and she can do what she wants. We’re just along for the ride.

–Jillian Steinhauer

One Comment to “The Fart Party Vol. 2 by Julia Wertz”

  1. Journalista – the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Oct. 23, 2009: A stamp-sized comic