Sequential State – the comics criticism archive of Alex Hoffman

Review: The Meaning of Life by Anja Wicki

I picked up a few books from Matt Davis, owner/operator of Perfectly Acceptable Press, at TCAF this year, and I’ve recently gotten around to reading them. Anja Wicki’s The Meaning of Life is a 40 page pamphlet stitched book, red and blue risograph on cream colored paper. It’s clear to me that while the goal for Davis’ press is to be “perfectly acceptable,” these books are some of the highest quality risograph printing I’ve seen in comics to date. (The only potential competitor in this regard is risograph wizard Ryan Cecil Smith).

In The Meaning of Life, Wicki uses short stories to represent values or things that in sum or in part make up the “meaning of life,” such as Energy, Love, and Honesty. Each story starts with a lovely title page, and each comic is 1-9 pages long.

The trick to The Meaning of Life is that each of the meanings is subverted or perverted in some way. In one of the best stories in the collection, a woman hosts a cooking show for dog owners to improve their dogs’ health and reduce their weight, but when she picks up her kids from school, they go out for McDonalds.

Wicki’s illustration is very geometric, using simple, strong lines and clean fill colors to provide a sense of space. Wicki’s characters are very emotive despite their simple construction, so as a reader you get a good sense of the emotion of Wicki’s work.

Anja Wicki’s work in The Meaning of Life has a similar vibe to the recent Retrofit Comics release Hellbound Lifestyle by Kaeleigh Forsyth and Alabaster Pizzo; there is a cynicism and a bewilderedness to the work. It is at times brutal, and at other times surreal.

Clearly The Meaning of Life evokes a sense of skepticism about the act of attempting to derive meaning from anything. The world is a cold and empty void where people contradict themselves and make bad on their promises, it seems to say. There’s some truth to that. But The Meaning of Life expresses a cynical worldview that I can’t endorse, can’t believe, can’t hide behind. 

Ultimately I think how successful The Meaning of Life feels to the reader as a piece of art is more derived from the reader’s worldview – if you agree with Wicki’s premise, you’ll find The Meaning of Life funny, clever even. If you don’t, you’ll likely find it barren. 

Anja Wicki is an illustrator and cartoonist based in Luzern, Switzerland. You can find Wicki’s work at and @gelerntes.

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