Review: Apartment Hunting by Alison Wilgus

Alison Wilgus sent over a copy of her latest comic, Apartment Hunting, a full color 17 page fantasy comic book about Hanne, an apartment hunter in a fantasy world where apartments are giant boxy looking emu-like birds. Along for the ride is a young couple, Jokum and Vivi, who are using Hanne’s service to find a new apartment to live in.

The setting’s concept is a silly play on words, but Wilgus isn’t necessarily relying on it to construct the whole comic. A few things are immediately evident in Apartment Hunting, the first of which is the tension between what Hanne wants to do, and what she’s doing in the comic. There are a few different references that Hanne has given up apartment hunting, but she’s doing a friend a favor. And what a “friend!” Jokum, the only male character, and one of the only white characters in the book, fills panel after panel with microaggressions, insulting Hanne’s skills, making assumptions about what she is doing or how she works, and making mistakes that he later blames on Hanne. Wilgus is not being subtle here – if there’s an antagonist in Apartment Hunting, it’s Jokum; oblivious, rude, and demanding.

Another interesting pick up is that Hanne isn’t living in an apartment made out of a dead bird – it appears that her apartment is made out of standard construction materials. These are small choices, but they add up to a picture of a woman struggling to escape a role she once accepted and now is put back into seemingly against her desire.

In some ways, I do think that the book is a little too tightly wound; it might have benefited from an few extra panels to allow the beats to breathe a bit easier. Part of that is assuredly the low page count. A lot of things get done in 17 pages, so it sometimes seems like the book rushes where it could stop and pause for greater effect.

Wilgus employs strong earthen tones throughout the book, and each page has a kind of wash effect – brown ink? coffee? The result makes the book look old and familiar, like a book that’s been sitting on a shelf for a long time.

I liked Apartment Hunting, and I think it would be interesting to see a little more of the world that Wilgus has constructed here. It’s built on a breezy concept, but that fantastical background allows Wilgus to make some meaningful social commentary.

Alison Wilgus is a cartoonist and co-editor of the science fiction and fantasy zine The Sockdolager. Alison is working with First Second Books on a non-fiction Mars comic; you can find more of Wilgus’ work here.

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