Bughouse vol. 2: Baja GN – Steve Lafler

3 out of 5

Very easy-going, exploratory work from Lafler, transitioning into his post-experimental phase with a focus less on mind-bending surreal life lessons, and more on music, and Spanish culture – two things which will be pretty consistent interests for years to come.

This is tied to the Bughouse world via bass player Bones, who takes a powder to Mexico to escape a frame-up job for Bug Juice possession, and though that sounds like a carryover from volume 1, it’s really just tangential. Lafler does resolve that plotline in the background, but meanwhile, it’s all about Bones and his new home, wandering into a makeshift r&b band and a relationship, Steve following his pacing muse such that scenes don’t begin or end with any real emphasis.

This latter bit is what keeps Steve’s work fresh, though, and prevents it from coming across just as travelogues or diary comix – a freeflow style that mimics his jazz interests, and allows the (loose) story to go where it wants when it wants. Thus it’s not so much a big deal that there’s not a hardcore plot, here – that some whispered rumors of Bones’ bandmate have some type of ominous secrets don’t amount to much, or that Bones’ girlfriend may have mystical powers is rather humorously just used to tidy up some remaining bits of the tale – and the slim size of the volume (92 pages) means we can easily float along and through the book within an hour or less. Bughouse evolves; Bones grows up a bit; Jimmy is something of a host, and no longer a main character; and we get to go on a little Spanish journey.