Taking place in the imaginary Hawaiian Quarter of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, cartoonist Cathon wraps two apparent enthusiasms — Tiki culture and Agatha Christie mysteries — into one amusing story about avid mystery fiction reader and Polynesian bar attendant Marie-Plum finally getting a chance to fulfill her dream of solving an actual mystery.
It’s her neighbor who’s dead. The lazy police say she died in a drunken stupor of too many pina coladas, but Marie-Plum believes it might have been murder, which sends her searching for clues in her own investigation. I agree with her — I can’t imagine it’s scientifically possible to overdose on pina coladas. As with any good Agatha Christie whodunnit, the bodies pile up, which sends Marie-Plum into the depths of the seedy Tiki underworld, including the cutthroat world of professional limbo competition.
Cathon includes fact sheets about the Hawaiian Quarter throughout, so the story doubles as a tour guide for a place that doesn’t exist, and that really informs a lot of the humor here. This is a light-hearted and personable work that is accentuated by Cathon’s absorption of the Tiki aesthetic that is on display in the fact pages but is also place amusingly in the panels. Besides, I miss the 1990s, when you were more apt to come upon rum humor, so in that way, this is a fun throwback.
In certain circles of the American Left, Sweden is viewed as one of the ideals that we aspire to, but as with Canada, our own desires tend to function as rose-colored glasses that misinterpret a better situation for a perfect one. Sweden has its problems and frustrations, they’re just not in the faces of most Americans, and so by comparison, it seems like an enlightened paradise.
Polish cartoonist Daria Bogdanska chronicles her experience with one of the country’s blind spots in Wage Slaves, a memoir of working in an Indian restaurant in Malmö and the labor issues that cropped up during that period.
Immigration, particularly regarding undocumented immigrants and work, are obviously an issue in a lot of places, and so much in the United States that we’ve gone deportation-loopy, which punishes the victim more than the criminal — in the case of undocumented workers, that would be the employers who knowingly give work, but also take advantage of the weaknesses and desperation of those who need the work. In laying out her experience, Bogdanska does well in depicting how such a status is a trap you get into where you hold none of the power and the situation is a self-perpetuating snowball of barely getting by.
Bogdanska went to Sweden to go to school, but gets wrapped up in a bureaucratic juggle where she can’t get what she needs to find a job. In order to survive, she finds one anyhow, but has to live in a series of sketchy situations and become beholden to the financial decisions of her employer. As her situation gets worse and worse, and Bogdanska tries to hold it all together, she begins to pursue the help of unions, which becomes another source of pressure.
Bogdanska includes some of her personal drama in Wage Slaves, specifically dueling romantic relationships that add stress to her situation, but most of the story is focused on the labor issue, as well as portraying how people in this situation live day-to-day. On one hand, it all unfolds in a casual way, but it’s also packed with actual information for people who find themselves in a similar situation. In this way, Bogdanska not only tries to express her own empowerment, but also does her best to pass the torch through her creative work.
Unexpectedly, Wage Slaves is optimistic without being starry-eyed. Sometimes things do work out okay, if not fabulously, and sometimes thing aren’t perfect, but they aren’t doomed either. Those are the kinds of messages that might be reasonable to embrace these days.