Underwire, the collected webcomics of Jennifer Hayden, is kind of like Cathy for those new-agey not-quite-yuppies you see around (that sounds meaner than I mean it to be, unless you’re really into Cathy comics, I dunno). They’re slice of life style strips about Hayden’s life as a mother/wife/woman and how she reconciles between all of these parts. There was nothing that really stood out to me while reading Underwire. I wouldn’t say that it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination, perhaps just a bit underdeveloped. But when you take into consideration how webcomics are usually put out at a pretty quick deadline, that isn’t too out of the ordinary. Some of the strips are utterly forgettable, but others are very funny. It’s a mixed bag, and while I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I do know more than a few people whom I believe would absolutely adore the book (right up my mom’s alley, I’m actually getting her a copy).
Each strip reads very much like an anecdote from a friend that ends with them saying “I guess you had to be there”. Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they’re wrong. Like I said, mixed bag. I particularly enjoyed a strip detailing a recurring dream Hayden has of being a serial killer, and another where her daughter explains the relationship dynamics of all the dolls she has. They have a great sense of folksy humor. The best strip, by far, in the book is called “Girls Club”, and it tells the story of a family Christmas. It’s all warm-fuzzies and nostalgia, but not presented in a pandering Nicholas Sparks kinda way. It is very frank and grounded, showing all the excitement and enthusiasm of someone actually reliving this memory—not an easy feat to accomplish.
Perhaps it relied too much on the warm-fuzzies of nostalgia for my taste (I can certainly say that I almost unilaterally loathe nostalgia). And a few of the strips just seem like unfinished thoughts. However, it’s a very quick read, so if any of it sounds like your thing I certainly encourage you to check it out. To each their own and whatnot.
It’s a fine first showing for a woman who got into the comics game late in life. Underwire is definitely enough to get me interested, scratch that, excited to read Hayden’s upcoming book The Story of my Tits, about her battle with breast cancer which, from what I've seen, looks like a much stronger work (as are many sophomore books). Is Underwire a book that I’ll be pushing on all of my friends? No, but there is definitely a solid niche for this book, and hopefully it’s a niche that will continue to grow (if it can get my mom reading comics, then we’ve come a long way, sister).
TL;DR: Underwire will be great for some, and just alright for others. By no means a bad work but definitely for a particular audience.
Underwire is written and drawn by Jennifer Hayden and published by Top Shelf Productions. You can read Underwire at the Act-I-vate website here but I encourage you to purchase a copy from Top Shelf here.
A review copy of Underwire was graciously provided to Spandexless by the creator.