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Panel Mania: ‘Wrinkles’ A Haunting Portrait of Aging

My first new piece of the year was also the first of my stint as captain of the Panel Mania ship at Publisher's Weekly - a great excuse to spotlight some of the fantastic comics coming out this year.

The Panel Mania column is published twice per month, and features an exclusive preview of an upcoming comics release, and my first choice was an easy one.

Wrinkles hit a little close to home as I suspect it will do for many - watching our older relatives lose their sense of self is as frightening as it is heartbreaking - and it's a reminder that many of us will come to similar fates. The fact that it explores such a well avoided subject is precisely why, I think, it's such an important (as well as beautiful) read.

A comics tour de force is blowing in from across the Atlantic as the recently formed Distribution Engine brings a Spanish creator, French smash hit, and UK publisher together under one striking cover: Wrinkles, a journey through the power of memories and their devastating loss.

Creator Paco Roca has had great success across Europe with titles including Les voyages d'Alexandre Icare and Emotional World Tour, but it is perhaps Wrinkles (Rides in the original French) and its equally acclaimed animated adaptation of the same name that the artist is most famous for. Winner of two prestigious Goya Awards in Spain, the English dub of the film scored Martin Sheen on cast and raised the comics profile in the national consciousness before it ever hit our shores.

Memories are all that we are, and as our protagonist Ernest leans out of a train carriage window on the cover, snapshots of his life fly from his open head, lost forever to the winds of time. In this deft and deceptively simple portrayal of our worst fears about aging the reader is reminded of the infinite potential of the comics medium.

Ernest is losing his mind to age, and his children, tired of explaining that he is no longer working in a bank as a young man and of dealing with his fits of confused anger, place him in a care home full of an assortment of elderly characters. His new friend, Emile, a sly old trickster who extols the blessing of having no family to forget him; Adrienne the kindly grandma; Georgette and Marcel, the latter with Alzheimer’s and the former his life long sweetheart; Rose, who lives in the memory of a train carriage on the Orient Express; Eugene the letch; Simone, always in search of a telephone to call her children who left her here by “mistake”.

Wrinkles is not always a kind read, but nor is it overly sentimental. It is a story of truth built with fiction, an observation of Roca’s own parents and those of his friends. In the world of the care home and the horrific second floor where those who have truly lost their minds reside, there is no happy ending in the face of the relentless onslaught of age – a future that we all face yet all hide from. A future that society as a whole shrugs away and forgets, frustrated with the annoyances of our elders who fumble within their own memories.

Roca shines a light on an issue that all of us have personal experience with and in doing so reminds us of the people that we are and will be. As Ernest slips into older, kinder memories, confused by his sudden age and placement, terrified by his prognosis, Roca shows us the world within and above all, how very necessary friendship, a knowing smile, and understanding can be.

Read the full preview here: 'Wrinkles' A Haunting Portrait of Aging