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Living Life Imperfectly In Archie Bongiovanni’s Mimosa

Archie Bongiovanni writer/artist
Andrea Miller book jacket design
Alison Gervais production manager
Abrams ComicArts Surely
272 pages

Archie Bongiovanni’s Mimosa debuted earlier this year in early spring. Mimosa relates the story of longtime friends trying to navigate life while helping and sometimes failing each other. Chris, Elise, Jo, and Alex met a decade ago while working as servers at the popular Chatter Square. With their time slinging plates in restaurant hell long over, the four keep their friendships going with their own weekly Sunday brunch tradition on top of texts and calls. The latest brunch finds single, enby parent Chris fretting about their impending 40th birthday — made all the more worse after Chris’ rejections by several of the younger crowd at local bar Tittrap. As the other three friends ponder how best to support Chris they also come to the stark realization that they’re all getting older and time is moving on for all of them. The realization that none of them are financially secure in the way parents often urge their adult children to be (with a savings account, a single steady job, a 401K, and a house) only depresses them. It’s a reality any marginalized queer knows too well but then artist Alex’s spontaneous idea to create a new entertainment event strictly for the older queer set has everyone excitedly talking. Before too long the new Grind venue becomes a packed reality!

And then things start to happen. In good ways and not so good ways. That’s life though, isn’t it? No matter how good and perfect we, speaking collectively for a moment, think we have to be, try to be, how respectable (or successful) our lives have to be to avoid wagging fingers (and worse) of judgmental people both outside and inside the queer community at large, it can be an overwhelming and exhausting burden. Mimosa’s primary message is to go live your life instead of worrying about being perfect and attaining impossible goals or as Bongiovanni cleverly puts it in a line of dialog spoken by Chris to Elise: “For the record, I still think it will end badly, but you’re a grown ass queer and can make your own mistakes. And TBH…some mistakes can be pretty fun.” Chris’ remark here is incredibly ironic given that Chris is still dealing with the consequences of a spectacularly bad choice they made a couple years before the story begins.

Relationships are at the core of Mimosa whether it’s the main one with the quartet of friends, or the individual ones among them, or the one between Chris and their child Pepper. Bongiovanni’s exploration of two specific ones are especially interesting. The first involves Chris and Elise while the other includes Jo and Alex. Chris and Elise began as friends and later became roommates. Elise made the decision to move into Chris’ house to help out financially and emotionally in the wake of their notably terrible deed that got them blackballed. The pair arguably have the most nuanced relationship of the four though this doesn’t stop them from bickering and even letting each other down at difficult moments when support would be welcomed. What keeps their friendship intact is a good deal of self examination and commitments to honesty and doing better.

Matters turn out quite differently between Jo and Alex. Transitioning was a positive decision for Jo’s life but the procedures put her in a huge financial crunch that forced her to turn to cam work; something she initially found objectionable but came to discover a talent. In fact, Jo excels at being a domme and Alex signs her to perform at Grind. Over the years Jo was always supportive of Alex, emotionally or simply buying a cup of coffee or tomatoes at the farmers market. Alex’s character is put into question by confessing a significant secret he’s kept from the others for several years. The revelation is a major shock to all of them and especially Jo who feels personally betrayed by the act. Despite feeling betrayed Jo delivers an electrifying performance and has the Grind crowd yelling and begging for more. You’ll have to read the story if you want to know what happens next.

Good characters will only enhance a good plot and Bongiovanni did the work to create a cast of very good characters whom we see in all their imperfections as they struggle, fail, and just go about life. Alex was my entry – his “Art Trash” emblazoned tank on the cover spoke to my undergrad art school years. Chris was instantly relatable for their existential crisis over a milestone birthday while simultaneously trying to be a single parent to gradeschool aged Pepper added even more interest. Elise’s urge to fling herself without a second thought into an office romance is more understandable knowing she was a dutiful caregiver to her father for an extended period of time. If you’ve been a caregiver then you know how exhausting it is on multiple levels and how you need to feel alive and free again, never mind if the method will end up being a terrible idea. There’s a duality to Jo’s life. When not doing the aforementioned cam work, Jo happily spends time as an instructor and mentor to queer kids at a music camp. Bongiovanni uses this duality to create a dramatic situation that will underscore Jo’s spirit. Discovering how Bongiovanni pushes and prods these characters to unfold and grow right to the very ending made for a fascinating and uplifting reading experience.

A few words about the book itself because it’s simply beautiful as an object by itself thanks to several design choices. The eye catching dust jacket design by Andrea Miller uses Bongiovanni’s art B & W art with spot coloring against an ombre teal green background graces front and back covers. Removing the dust jacket reveals split views of the main cast on a field of white. An illustration of the friends’ brunch plates from bird’s eye angle are colored in sunny yellow and white to make the end papers and the book tape matches the color choices. In case you’re wondering, the tape is a piece of cloth to which the pages are sewn and then attached to the book covers before the end papers are attached. Finally, the book uses Smyth sewn square case binding to attach the pages to the spine which means they won’t come loose easily and the book itself is strong and durable. These last two items may seem like small details but the fact that someone gave attention to these fine points speaks volumes about the quality Abrams put into this book. While many people understandably have a preference for reading digitally, these are the type of flourishes, if you will, that seem to translate differently if at all into the digital reading experience. Overall this is a book design to take pride in.

Your life doesn’t have to be a messy affair to appreciate Bongiovanni’s character driven, slice of life Mimosa! Check out a small sample at the publisher’s site. Look for copies at your local comic shop or local indy or chain bookstore. Order a copy with the following ISBN: 9781419752438. Or find it at Bookshop, IndieBound, or B & N. If all else fails, buy a copy from Amazon.

Please visit Bongiovanni’s site!

Mimosa was released in early spring 2023. This incredibly belated review is a result of personal matters and should not be seen as reflecting negatively on the quality of the work.

September 16, 2023
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