I like Lauren Barnett’s Me Likes You Very Much, a collection of the artist’s daily webcomics spanning from 2008-2012, very much. I’ll openly admit I was initially wary of Barnett’s plethora of talking fruits and birds. The art is sketchy and goofy and the novel is a motley collection of seemingly unrelated strips depicting inanimate objects conversing with each other. But Me Likes You Very Much grows on you very quickly. It grows on you to the point where you’re suddenly laughing out loud and handing the book to your friends saying, “This is exactly how I feel about recycling. Exactly how I feel.”
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that Me Likes You Very Much is a thoughtful commentary on friendship and relationships thinly veiled by sketchily drawn birds with potty mouths.
The birds speak what we as people—as friends and significant others—are actually thinking about one another. The characters speak candidly (“I’m so sick of looking at your face every day” or “You are so boring. I am bored to death. Literally, I am probably minutes away from death because of you”) in a way we all sometimes wish we had the guts for. One of my favorite strips depicts a white bird commenting on a blue bird’s breakfast choice. “Bagels are really fattening,” he says, and the blue bird replies, “Well I thought you were a stupid asshole and I guess I was right.” Because we’ve probably all been in a situation like this and couldn’t react as honestly or as rudely as the blue bird (even though we wanted to), it’s nice to live vicariously through the comic strip. When you read Me Likes You Very Much, you can indulge in the rudeness and truth of the characters without actually messing up your own karma.
Scattered through the collection are full-page sketches of animals who speak in large bubble letters. These pages act as monologues, as the characters admit something brutally deep about themselves. I connected particularly with the image of a goldfish, frowning and thinking, “nobody loves me even though I’m effing gorgeous.” What may be so appealing about this sketch is the irony that a silly drawing of a blue goldfish could relate to a very real human concern: that we aren’t loved and that maybe we never will be even if we are the most gorgeous person in the world.
I’ve certainly seen prettier art, and I’ve certainly seen better technical use of sequential elements. But the art does what it needs to do. It complements the tone of the writing. While the art is no masterpiece, it’s greatest asset is that it doesn’t get in the way of the writing, something that happens far too often in comic books.
If Barnett can convince me in a matter of minutes that talking birds and veggies can reveal something about the human condition, there isn’t any doubt it my mind that $14 is a small price to pay for this graphic novel.