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Comic Review: The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens

When The Wrong Place was published in the US last year, it soon became a darling of the comics press as it had been in the European scene, with praise heaped upon the creator, Brecht Evens. Yet when it was released and re-released here in the UK, as recently as earlier this month, it was once again to a familiar silent reception from the mainstream media. Even the most wonderful of independent comics still inhabit that uncomfortable grey area between literature and art, not fully accepted by either establishment.

I mention this only as it is such a shame that so many people will not have heard of The Wrong Place, and the acclaim from the comics community was most assuredly well deserved. Evens tells the story of a group of individuals leading separate but interconnected lives, rendered in vivid colour and experimental style. Gary and Robbie, the long term best friends whose lives are polar opposites: Gary always in lonely grey, Robbie in brightest blues and surrounded by adoration.

Cover art for The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens

At first glance this title stands out as a bold and unapologetic art-comic; there are no rigid panels to be found, and full pages are given over to wonderfully busy scenes, or page after page of headshots. Time is fluid, roaming around the page and crossing over its past trails as if it were a chronological Penrose staircase; a sex scene is astonishing for its beauty and expressionistic figures. The emotions within the entire tale are palpable: loneliness so intense it hurts; desire for love spilling across the pages of displacement; awkwardness so well rendered as to sting.
Every small moment is rendered beautifully.Particularly refreshing is the lack of moralising or judgement. Each character lives a very different life, but none are shown to be incorrect, vapid, or immoral. As Evens has said, it's "a book in which people coldly step on each other’s soul all the time, except when they don’t."
LonelinessThe Wrong Place reads like a trip to an immersive and wonderful art gallery, with every painting bleeding in to the next to create an overarching narrative that ensures no matter what your literary or art tastes, you will not put this book down until you have finished, sated and satisfied. If this sounds like ridiculously high praise then rest assured that it is well deserved: this is a magnificent triumph.

Evens' earlier work, Night Animals, has been translated for the US market (Evens is Belgian and the comics were originally published in Dutch) but has not yet been published in the UK. I can't wait!

In the Wrong Place is out now, published by Jonathan Cape, priced £14.99 (Drawn and Quarterly, priced $24.95 in the US)

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