Michael DeForge’s relationship with Koyama Press is one of the most rewarding professional partnerships in comics, as Koyama regularly releases new DeForge graphic novels and compilations of the cartoonist’s constantly expanding body of work. And the publisher is doubling down on DeForge this year, publishing a collection of his short comics, A Western World, as part of its spring lineup, followed by a graphic novel, Brat, in the fall. Brat is an introspective, off-kilter exploration of the life of Ms. D., a former juvenile delinquent figuring out her place in the world as she grows out of her adolescent identity. Society still defines her by her delinquency, but she behaves badly because it’s expected and celebrated by those around her. There’s no motivation behind her actions, and now she’s just going through the motions.
This exclusive preview of Brat, on sale September 19, introduces Ms. D. as she spray paints “JUVENILE Delinquent” on the side of a building, winking and smirking at the reader. It’s the face she puts on in public, but when she’s on her own, she’s far less confident about how she’s chosen to live. DeForge breaks down characters and environments into basic shapes that enhance the graphic composition of each panel, and details like bird shit on the roofs of buildings and litter on the ground in that first page create a scuzzy atmosphere around Ms. D. Those simplified forms make moments of intense detail stand out, like the close-up on the pumpkin Ms. D. smashes on the street. DeForge wants the reader to linger on that image of reckless destruction, adding a foreboding undercurrent to Ms. D’s identity crisis.