Updated on August 13, 2016
Graphic novels: surrealism
Surrealism is the name of the game for my next set of three graphic novels. This time I’m reviewing a book about a sick child, a book about the life and soul of the party, and a collection of graphic short stories.
36. Eustace by S.J. Harris
Eustace is a sickly child, confined to his bed, served insipid, disgusting soup and constantly having to suffer visits from a horde of Aunties. One day his Uncle Lucy (Lucien) sneaks into his room and sets up home there to hide from the police. Soon Lucy’s friends begin to arrive – criminals, fraudsters and prostitutes – and the bedroom becomes a den of iniquity, with Eustace right at the centre.
I really enjoyed the first half of this book: Eustace talks directly to the reader and his observations about life and illness are darkly hilarious. I also loved the family dynamics: Eustace’s mother is strangely self-centred and possessive; his father almost entirely absent from his life despite living in the same house. As the story began to descend into chaos, however, I became less interested. It just got a little too fragmentary and weird for me. As for the ending, well … I basically have no idea what went on there!
37. The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens
Gary is hosting a party. He’s bought all the snacks and drinks, and made sure there are enough chairs in the living room. Soon the guests start to arrive, but they are all distracted, talking about something else: Robbie. Robbie is a lothario, the life and soul of any party. But will he turn up to this one? And how can Gary hope to compete with this shining socialite?
I love the art style of this book. It’s beautifully rendered in watercolour, and most of the people have a single dominant colour, so when you see them in large gatherings they look like a blurred painting. This style really lends itself to the frenetic nature of the parties that dominate the story, but it’s the philosophy that’s the real treat here. Eventually we get a conversation between Gary and Robbie – so different yet somehow very close friends – and it is a moment of quiet in what has been a melee of people shouting and talking over each other. They discuss the future, ambition, and living without expectations. It’s a beautiful book and a touching story.
38. I’m Never Coming Back by Julian Hanshaw
A man who always wears a diving suit. A man who cannot sleep at night for fear of tsunamis. An old man who talks to a crab. These are just some of the characters who feature in the short stories in Hanshaw’s collection I’m Never Coming Back. The stories have themes of loneliness, distance, separation, travel and transition.
I didn’t love this collection. A lot of the time I found the storytelling pretty confusing, and I couldn’t really get on board with the surrealism. I thought the story with the man in the diving suit was quite enjoyable – it captures a certain longing which is very interesting – but overall neither the art style nor the stories really spoke to me.
Have you read any of these books or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts!