Ikebana by Yumi Sakugawa is one of several independent comics I picked up today at my local Comics n' Stuff. If your local comic book store doesn't carry it, you can buy it here via Retrofit Comics, where you can buy work from a dozen or two different artists.
Ikebana is a study in contrasts. To open the comic, the main character, Cassie, presents her senior thesis, which consists of her standing half naked in a bowl of water while the professor reads a brief statement about ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. The other students are pissed. They spent a whole year developing a portfolio, while Cassie half-asses it. To make matters worse, she abruptly leaves the room. The professor tells all the other students to follow her, as if her running away is part of her artistic statement.
The contrasts are obvious, and I won't deal with them very deeply. Cassie is overweight, and she not only gets sexually harassed but gets her body denigrated by strangers. I guess what I like about this piece is the way Sakugawa creates mood and pace. The lines are thick and clear, and the shading technique - I'm guessing it's computer-generated, using tiny colored squares - is reminiscent of Rutu Modan and Dick Tracy. The ending at the beach is nothing short of breathtaking. The 48-page comic speaks of loneliness, disenfranchisement, laziness, and mental illness, and I highly recommend it.