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Book Reviews Review: For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library canonizes Lynn Johnston’s groundbreaking strip

Title
For Better or For Worse: The Complete Library, Vol. 1
Author
Lynn Johnston
Genre
Graphica
Publisher
IDW
Pages
544
Price
$53.99

Joining the likes of Little Orphan Annie and Bloom County in the prestigious Library of American Comics series, For Better or for Worse marks the first Canadian title inducted into the ranks of these canonized classics (Lynn Johnston puckishly alters the colophon: "North" American Comics).

This first of nine volumes starts in 1979, collecting for the first time the complete, three-decade-long saga of the Patterson family – suburban parents John and Elly, toddler Elizabeth, kindergartener Michael and sheepdog Farley. While the strip doesn't yet have the full-to-bursting cast and complicated melodrama of later years, these early efforts are fresher, looser and maybe even a little bit angrier than they would soon become.

The very first strip is almost a manifesto: hair up in curlers, bathrobe dishevelled, sleepily vacuuming, Elly smashes her radio for blaring Wives and Lovers, that condescending "warning" to women who no longer "try" for their husbands. Here, from a woman's perspective, was the reality of daily domestic life – beautifully drawn social satire, unafraid to skewer male chauvinism, or explore the twin challenges of women's lib and motherhood. Johnston's groundbreaking strip remains critical without being caustic and sweet without being sentimental.

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