... the new book is significantly different and, in many ways, better ... The title isn’t made very clear until the book is done, and even then it’s more of a feeling than an obvious statement. How did she try? Did she fail? What’s coming next? You could call this a weakness, that she doesn’t really like to spell things out—it’s not a very reflective book, even though it’s written looking back at an older self—but it doesn’t feel that way. Maybe it’s that it’s not a conspicuously reflective book. Lust lets those feelings that she evokes do a lot of the work ... One of her great innovations in How I Tried to Be a Good Person is her use of full-page splash pages to break up the story. They don’t advance the narrative, but they change your reading of the book by messing with the pace at which you would otherwise go through it ... It’s hard to translate personhood into an abstracted form like comics, which naturally simplifies the complicated edges of things, but this book does it.
In contrast to the formal experimentation of her novel-adaptation, Voices in the Dark (2017), Lust presents her own story with a straightforward graphic approach; her two-colored drawings are loose, rough, and a bit naive, just like her younger-self protagonist. Lust’s bluntly honest account grants us a look at a courageous but alarming life that few would want to experience but are pruriently amenable to observing from a distance.
... the overwhelming impression for the reader is of a youthful experiment gone monstrously wrong. Georg is so decent, and Kimata so despicable, you can’t help but wonder why she returns to him again and again. But this is unfair. How powerful is desire. We need it so badly – without it, life is sludgy and grey – and yet, it can induce us to make such bad decisions, particularly when we are young. Lust’s drawings of her encounters with Kimata are highly explicit – this isn’t, I must warn you, a book to be breezily flipped open on the bus or the train – without ever being gratuitous ... As a leftist anarchist who disapproves of the Austrian state, our heroine is determined to do right by this new immigrant even when he does wrong by her. But in the end, Lust’s energetic, searching book has at its heart the question, still not fully answered, of why fulfilling their needs so often leaves women feeling so abject, so utterly undone.
Lust’s tortured quest for a bohemian life of the mind and an untenable romance encompassing 'the perfect companion and the perfect lover at the same time' may irritate some less patient readers. But those who have felt even a hint of Lust’s heady romantic yearnings will be jolted by the spotting of a kindred spirit.
... intimate and imaginative ... Lust tells her story as she draws it: straightforward, detailed, and explicit. Her black-and-white line drawings, spot-colored with pink, are chock-full with penises, hairy vulvas, and joyously fanciful backdrops. Lust’s frank rendition makes plain how passions (both artistic and bodily) may inspire horrible decision-making, but they can also drive people to figure out who they truly are.
...Lust does well in illustrating the vehemence of her need in the graphic, crucial sex scenes, often explosive and disorienting, drawing the reader into the intensity of the emotions behind them as much as the raw physical details. These scenes especially provide emotional context for what would lead Lust to sometime become more concerned with her abuser’s well-being than her own ... The core of Lust’s memoir is within the title itself — How I Tried to Be a Good Person. It’s an apologetic title, also a bit defensive, and it’s probably something we’ve all thought in certain situations. It also suggests that there is a universal 'good' way to be a person and that we can actually try to be that. But of course, the guidelines are vague and the properties within them are more complicated than we believe they are, so the title also points to an comfortable truth — trying to be a good person is the best we can really do in this life.
Lust is determined to live her truth, even occasionally putting herself in physical danger. At other times, she’s left contemplating the line between self-actualization and selfishness. Lust relates all this in an uncompromisingly frank manner, with anthropological detail. It’s a rich narrative ... Lust’s cartooning remains as fine as ever. Her panels shift from detailed naturalism to bold expressionism as the story requires, yet the stylistic adjustments are fluid and unified ... Whether depicting a garden, a busy railway intersection, or the exterior of Georg’s apartment house, these atmospheric, palate-cleansing moments anchor the narrative and give Lust the opportunity to show off her considerable artistic chops. Lust is also uninhibited when depicting sex. The generous scenes of her and Kimata going at it are unabashedly explicit, full of heat, energy, and sweat ... Lust seems to create autobiographical comics in part as a way of bearing witness to her life, noting—but never wallowing—in her screw-ups, trying to make sense of them and move forward. Since she seems unable to live a buttoned-down sort of existence she'll undoubtedly get into more trouble up ahead, but she seems to accept this as the natural order. And we, her enthralled readers, are with her every step of the way.