Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. Intrigued to find something new? Seeking validation for your secret passions? Required Reading gets you.


By Brandy Dykhuizen. Imbued with spooky kids (both affected and legitimately strange), Spanish moss, moments of magical realism and a touch of the absurd tossed in every now and then, Wet Moon is a modern Southern Gothic, replete with a cast of Hot Topic regulars. Queerness and issues of body image pervade Sophie Campbell’s pages. It offers us a refreshing and candid look at sexual awakening, gender identity and the thousands of other questions and doubts that plague the teenage mind.

Everyone is a little strange in Wet Moon. Standards and expectations are thrown out the door entirely, which allows us to focus on the dynamics between the characters and their various insecurities. If Wet Moon seems to plod along without a preponderance of force or action, then you just might be missing the point. For the undergrads in this sleepy, mysterious town, men who bring their monkeys to Denny’s and bald, handless rich girls are the norm, establishing a basis for a truly bizarre comparison. When you’re nineteen, it’s the little things — like figuring out if the cashier at the video store touched your hand seductively or accidentally, or if your inconsiderate new roommate is chowing down on your vegan miso soup — that are most important. It’s by focusing on the daily dynamics and mundanities that you learn how to navigate this crazy world, and determine your place within it.

That’s not to say there aren’t some awfully intriguing oddities present on the periphery. While art students are mired in their own cogitations and uniqueness, a subset of characters plod through the surrounding swamps. Volume One introduces us to some truly creepy individuals, most of whom are operating under unexplained motives. Fern, the extravagantly wealthy (and largely naked) girl who is missing a hand, can sometimes be found crawling nude and drooling through a nighttime swamp, transfixed on God-knows-what. Myrtle, however, hunches over in broad moonlight, clutching a knife while audibly wishing death on a passerby. And then we get a truly disturbing rapey vibe from Vincent, who sends poor Cleo hightailing it as far away as possible, to vomit and clutch at her torso. Darkness runs deep in Wet Moon – it isn’t just gossip and arguments that contribute to everyone’s hard time.

At first glance, the main characters may seem like the outliers, banded together by virtue of their various piercings and Chelsea cuts. But the real misfits enter in fits and starts, sprinkled throughout the pages with a lovely Gothic absurdism — and very little explanation. There’s The Pringles Guy, who follows various characters, clutching his portfolio and smelling like snack food. The aforementioned man with a monkey, enjoying a meal with his simian friend, and perhaps most interestingly (and least explored), a seemingly vapid mouth-breathing bayou teen, ashing into the burgers she grills for her and her shell-shocked Paw. Suffice it to say, there is a lot going on in this book, and the sometimes herky-jerky storytelling only adds to the puzzlement and intrigue. Campbell creates a firm nexus around which a handful of vignettes orbit to form a murky but fascinating constellation.

Campbell also expertly captures emotion and intent on the faces of her characters, employing wide eyes and plump lips to convey sentiment. But of course the best artistic aspect of Wet Moon is the variety of body types and shapes, as the girls and boys wear whatever the heck they want to wear, exposing a fat roll here or an untoned midriff there, mostly without self-awareness or shame. The real message in Wet Moon is “love yourself and treasure friendship.” When the real weirdoes come knocking, it’s your friends who got your back.

Oni Press/$19.99

Written and illustrated by Sophie Campbell.