comicbookGRRRL Do not offend the chair leg of truth; it is wise and terrible.


Panel Mania: Lucy Knisley Explores Aging in ‘Displacement’

I always love Lucy Knisley's work but this new title is particularly special. It's very uplifting, though I did have a wee cry afterwards.

Touching and relatable, New York Times best-selling artist Lucy Knisley follows up her previous hit autobiographies with a travel journal of her trip aboard a cruise ship with her elderly grandparents. With memories of a childhood shared with an active grandma and grandpa, Knisley is forced to confront the mortality of those dear to her alongside the sheer exhaustion of being their temporary carer.

Knisley’s previous works have focused on a trip to Paris with her mother (French Milk), her love of food (Relish), and a travel memoir of her adventures in Europe (An Age of License). Travel then is certainly a topic of speciality but the focus here is very much upon feelings of grief, guilt and compassion rather than youthful adventure.

Knisley’s grandma has dementia, which is getting worse, and her grandpa also needs near constant care and supervision. It’s a sad flip of the parent-child relationship that comes with advanced age, and something many of us struggle with and try to avoid even thinking upon. Knisley though is unflinchingly honest in her writings – her love for her grandparents is powerful even when she is gripped with guilt and fear over the many daily decisions she has to make. Her anger too at family members who avoid dealing with the realities of her grandparents’ situation is palpable, her emotions conveyed not only in carefully chosen words but in the expressive drawings of chosen moments.

The clever blend of comics, illustrations, and hand-lettered text is Knisley’s signature and her skill increases with every book – in some ways Displacement almost feels too short as the reader wishes desperately to stay in Knisley’s world just a little longer. Her art too, with soft lines and colours and occasional humorous expressions act as a wonderful filter for the story. What could be rather depressing is lifted by the human moments shown; small changes in expression, little thought bubbles of the artist’s thoughts, emotions hinted at that are far harder to convey in text alone.

In contrast to the daily routine of caring for an elderly couple are the grandpa’s journal extracts peppered throughout. His jotted down experiences of being a pilot in World War II are a sharp reminder of the young man he once was, with his own opinions, memories and life revealed, brought to life by his granddaughter. It can be difficult to connect the elderly relatives we have with the people they once were, and for older grandchildren in particular it can be heart breaking to see once active grandparents seemingly fade away as visits unintentionally decrease.

Displacement is a travel memoir on the surface, but the journey is through time and emotion rather than to any one particular destination. As Knisley struggles with the task of caring for her grandparents, schmaltz is avoided by the genuine internal arguments laid out on the page. There is no grand reveal or change of minds, but there is a whole lot of heart and truth and love, and for grandchildren everywhere this is an absolute gift.

Read the full preview here: Lucy Knisley Explores Aging in 'Displacement'



Review: Henni by Miss Lasko-Gross

In a year already tragically marked by the ever familiar battle between art and religion, freedom of speech and religious (in)tolerance, this fable about faith, identity, and art within an oppressive society from the critically acclaimed Miss Lasko-Gross has been noted as being particularly timely.

It's a tale that will be relevant for a long time to come, commenting not only on fundamentalist beliefs but societal oppression of women, rebellion against repression, and the power of art.

Underground comix star Lasko-Gross is well known for her celebrated semi-autobiographical graphic novels Escape from "Special" and A Mess of Everything (available from Fantagraphics), as well as featuring in the Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women touring exhibition.

Henni cover


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



Vector: Sequentials #1 – Women and SF Comics

As promised, the first instalment proper of my new column for the British Science Fiction Association's critical journal, Vector. Coverage of the world of SF literature can be a tad bloke heavy, and comics are no exception.

Time then to delve into the truly groundbreaking work from SF comic creators that just happen to be female: Starstruck, A Distant Soil, and Finder; and their modern successors Saga, Decrypting Rita, and Grindhouse.

Hit the jump for the full article!



Vector: 2013 in Comics

Earlier this year I was thrilled to be invited to contribute a regular column to Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association. My column, Sequentials, is the first time the journal has covered comics and I'm really excited to be a part of that. 

Before my column kicked off proper, the year began with a Best of 2013 issue, so what better way to introduce comics to the Vector readership!

Below then is my look back at the best science fiction comics that 2013 had to offer, with a particular focus on four important comics: Ballistic by Adam Egypt Mortimer and Darick Robertson from Black Mask Studios; The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy from Vertigo; The Private Eye by Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente from Panel Syndicate; and Raygun Roads by Owen Michael Johnson and Indio from Changeling Studios.

Hit the jump for the full article!

The Private Eye


The Independent on Sunday – Review of IDP: 2043 by by Mary Talbot, Hannah Berry, Irvine Welsh, Barroux et al

"The Edinburgh Book Festival, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, shows that its commitment to promoting graphic novels remains strong by teaming up with the publisher Freight Books, and a dream team of novelists and artists, to visualise Scotland’s future."

I'd been looking forward to this exciting collaboration for quite some time, so I was delighted to be able to review it for The Independent on Sunday last month. It's fairly unusual to see a comic book focused on my home country of Scotland, let alone one of a glorious science fiction flavour.

Edited by crime maestro Denise Mina, this graphic novel features chapters by 2000 AD creator Pat Mills and acclaimed graphic novelist Hannah Berry; artist Will Morris; The Phoenix artist Adam Murphy; author Irvine Welsh and Doctor Who artist Dan McDaid; Mina herself and famed French artist Barroux; and Sally Heathcote: Suffragette collaborators Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth.

There are a couple of hiccups, but I make special note in particular of the chapter by Adam Murphy, which is the stand out diamond in an embarrassment of riches.

Read the full review here!

IDP: 2043