The equivalent of the poet-in-the-big-city memoir today is probably the comics memoir. Like poetry in the middle of the last century, comics are a form receiving fresh adoring scrutiny by a new generation. The possibilities for comics feel blown-out, limitless, and a fleet of young cartoonists is confidently moving to cities across America, eager to form communities with like-minded artists and forge new ground.

Though it isn't steeped in the willful, artsy ugliness of Julie Doucet's 1999 classic My New York Diary, Julia Wertz's Drinking at the Movies is still a clear descendant of Doucet's confessional autobiography. Wertz came up in the webcomics world before and during her big move to New York City from the Bay Area (her comic The Fart Party is one of the few consistently quality cartooning experiences on the internet), and so her style is meant for slow-loading dial-up screens. It's simple and strictly iconographic—a factory is always a squat thing with a few bricks sketched on the side and tall smokestacks bleeding scribbly black ink—and the book is broken up into a series of short vignettes in a web-friendly format.

Wertz still mostly clings to the gag-strip style that has been the primary language of the comics medium since its creation in the early 20th century, but the observational humor often builds to something more unsettling than the average rim-shot-ready conclusion. One early strip in the book finds her unpacking belongings in her first New York apartment only to discover that a box of comics—"the only things I've ever loved... the most important things to me"—got lost in the move. As she's unpacking dishes in a smear of self-pity, Wertz notices headlines on the newspapers that the dishes were wrapped in, about war and cataclysmic earthquakes, and she pauses for a moment and delivers the punch line, of sorts: "I'm an asshole and my life is retarded." Another strip, about an awkward first date from an internet matchmaking service, ends with Wertz drunkenly toddling away from her confused suitor—"Sos Illa see ya 'round sometime *Hic*"—and passing out on a park bench.

Drinking is structured in sections based on the apartment that Wertz was living in at the time. This makes sense: Most young people moving to a city for the first time have to try out a half-dozen apartments at the least before finding something resembling permanence, and often those varying backdrops—no, no, that was when I was living in the shithole on Thornton Street, before we all moved to the nice walk-up on Green Street—are the only way to eventually determine one booze-soaked night or shitty minimum-wage job from another. But it also slyly tells the story of Wertz's increasing dependence on alcohol.

To her credit, it's not a recovery memoir; as in real life, the drinking is played down, almost always portrayed in the context of a funny story, and you only gradually realize it's become a problem for Wertz. By fragmenting the narrative into tiny arcs, she robs the alcoholism part of the story of the overblown melodrama that sucks the power out of so many memoirs. Instead, it's a series of short, funny letters from the big city, written by the smart friend who's gotten her shit together but still doesn't take herself too seriously. You're relieved and gratified to see that everything works out just fine. recommended