I love Joe Sacco’s “Bitumen or Bust” partly because the last time I drove through Alberta, Canada, I too nearly ran out of gas in the middle of a highway, just as Sacco and his friends nearly did. But the cartoonist and journalist’s account of his trip through Alberta’s tar sands — excuse me: oil sands — is much more harrowing and potent as the world focuses ever more on the existential crisis of climate change and the capitalist engines that feed it. Sacco’s reportage in comic form, reprinted below from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s forthcoming anthology The Best American Comics 2019 (on sale October 1), offers a stark look at our bond to Big Oil and the consternations it creates, digging deep into the industry that extracts and refines bitumen, extremely heavy crude oil, from the earth.

“Does admitting I’m part of the problem disqualify me from thinking there’s something wrong here?” Sacco asks toward the end. I’d argue not, especially when the problems, staggering as they are, stare us in the face.

Joe Sacco, “Bitumen or Bust” (2015), first published in Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life (2018) and later in The Best American Comics (2019) (all images courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Cover of The Best American Comics (2019) (image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Bitumen or Bust” is reprinted with permission from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The Best American Comics 2019, edited by Jillian Tamaki and series editor Bill Kartalopoulos, is forthcoming from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on October 1.

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN, Donorschoose.org, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...

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