Miseryland is a collection of Keiler Roberts’ ongoing autobiographical comics series Powdered Milk. Throughout the book, short stories and vignettes build into one narrative. The first scene shows Roberts’ three-year-old daughter Xia watching her shrink the window cellophane with a hairdryer. “It’s getting fancier and fancier,” she observes. Throughout the book Xia is a major character: challenging Roberts (“You want to say dammit?”), entertaining her (“There’s a little man inside my butt, cleaning it. Some poop might come out.”), and loving her (“You’re a good friend to me Mommy.”) Xia’s at the age when she’s unintentionally funny and lacks self-consciousness. The awkward yet realistic drawings establish the tone of the work and perspective of Roberts’ character. The compositions, gestures and expressions work in combination to achieve a deadpan humor, often with underlying darker emotions. Roberts’ character is earnest, but flawed—moody and volatile. She screams at a stranger on the sidewalk during a dog walking conflict, bursts into a swearing/crying rage over a car seat, and tunes out her husband and daughter. The book concludes with a family trip to Wisconsin to visit Roberts’ parents. Her mother recalls a recent eBay loss while her father delights in new shoes, which are superior because they are “shaped like a foot.” They arrive home and unload the packed car (dog food was cheaper there). Roberts leaves a message for her mother, letting her know they arrived safely and thanking her once again.
Roberts shares her life as a mother living with a young child just learning to push boundaries in this collection of her Ignatz Award–nominated Powdered Milk minicomics. With this strong entry in the autobiographical comic genre, Roberts is unafraid to show herself looking bad, such as when she’s frustrated when her daughter, Xia, calls her—only to find out it’s to say “I love you.” In the comic’s best pages, Roberts and Xia struggle with toilet training (“That already happened,” Xia beams when she is warned to keep her butt out of the bowl), and Xia abuses her swearing privileges. The linework on the characters is detailed while retaining a sketchiness for backgrounds that makes the figures feel raw, rather than polished. The simple, direct art makes for an intimate, personal journey through Roberts’s life as a mother and creator. (BookLife)