By Oliver Gerlach
Everything Is Really Hard Today is a collection of Kevin Budnik’s It’s Okay To Be Sad autobiographical mini-comics. It’s an odd little collection of tiny, sad diary pieces, with very little coherent narrative; just brief vignettes from Budnik’s daily life. As such, it’s a very personal piece that no two readers are likely to draw the exact same conclusions from. This makes it a little challenging to review particularly usefully, but here are some general thoughts on it.
Budnik’s cartooning is deeply charming. It’s simple and loose, with faces made up of only a few lines, but there’s a lot of character and emotion in there. Everything seems to be hand-colored with marker pens, which brings an endearing level of roughness and sketchiness to even the lengthier, more polished strips. It’s a lovely aesthetic and really makes it seem more direct and personal. Unfortunately, the hand-drawn nature of the comic means that sometimes the lettering escapes slightly, with words drifting onto multiple lines, but lettering by hand directly onto the page means that sometimes that’s unavoidable. It still fits well enough with the style, and it’s not a major issue at all in this case.
The bigger issue with these comics is the size. While I understand that these are tiny, personal, hand-drawn diary pieces, the vast majority of them are just straightforwardly too small on the page. I’d prefer to see 2 of the 4-panel strips per page, blown up to a reasonable size and possibly polished a little for the new panel size, rather than the 6 strips per page presented here. Each strip is very brief, but when presented at this size, with a full 24 panels per page, the hand-drawn lettering becomes at best difficult to make out, and at worst completely illegible. All of the comics are good, but they’re just too small. It’s an issue of presentation rather than content, but it’s one that makes reading the comic much more of a challenge than it should be. The lengthier, more polished comics are far better, feeling like they have a little more substance while also having panel sizes that are actually readable.
The content of all of the comics presented in Everything Is Really Hard Today is simply the daily life of Budnik, but that’s naturally very difficult to separate from his mental health issues; describing this as “a comic about depression” would feel somewhat reductive, but, certainly for me at least, that’s the element that rose most clearly to the surface. It’s very real and relatable, delivered without any active attempts at humour. This gives the book something of a nihilistic tone, with very few light points in its 120+ pages, but it works. This is a gently charming look at life that always feels entirely genuine; Budnik’s struggles are tiny and human in a way that makes this rather bleak collection seem oddly endearing and affirming rather than depressing.
Overall, then, it’s a good read that could have been exceptional had the comics actually been large enough to read easily. Budnik’s an excellent cartoonist who works with a tone that appeals to me enormously, but the production issues make Everything Is Really Hard Today a very frustrating read as well as a charming and relatable one.
Everything Is Really Hard Today
Writer/Artist: Kevin Budnik
Publisher: Tinto Press