*Gray Horses — Recommended

The point of Hope Larson’s comics is never the destination but the journey. Raina Telgemeier calls them “visual poetry”, just the right description.

Gray Horses opens with travel, as French exchange student Noémie reaches her new city, taking the subway from the airport to her rooming house. While she adjusts to her foreign surroundings, she dreams of a girl named Marcy riding a wild talking horse.

Gray Horses cover
Gray Horses
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In the daytime, she makes friends with a neighbor, a girl who’s in her art history class and lives at the bakery across the street. As the book progresses, we learn more about what happened before Noémie came to the US, her discoveries within the city, and how various symbolic elements echo themselves in her life. It’s a coming-of-age tale about acceptance and discovery, gloriously and uniquely told.

The art consists of fluid lines contained within borderless panels unrestricted and shaped far more organically than the usual squares and rectangles. The balloon tails similarly twist and curl, showing how speech carries through air on waves, while sound effects and background smells and actions are indicated by small cursive words. Noémie’s thoughts are in French, simultaneously translated for us in text that wraps around the edges of the scene. The entirety is welcoming and dare I say it, feminine in its use of curves.

The tan color used for backgrounds and other various elements has a peachy sepia tone that gives the whole thing a feeling of memory. Against it, the white figures and foreground elements immediately draw the eye. Larson’s techniques demonstrate her thorough knowledge of the comic medium; they couldn’t be done as elegantly anywhere else. They don’t draw attention unless you’re already looking to see how she accomplishes her stunning effects.

Given her fondness for the arcing line, Larson’s drawings of Marcy riding the horse are lovely, appropriately dreamlike and flowing. They have a childlike simplicity to them that I’m sure took much practice and skill.

Noémie’s city, although an analogue of Chicago, is called Onion City, and much like that namesake, this book reveals itself in layers over time. It’s immediately rereadable and will continue to reward the reader, who will find new meaning in it every time.

David Welsh and Mark Fossen have also reviewed Gray Horses. David concentrates on the necessity of the reader to engage with the text, bringing themselves to the meaning, while Mark finds parallels between his journey as a reader and Noémie’s as a character. Larson’s previous book was Salamander Dream.

13 Responses to “*Gray Horses — Recommended”

  1. Graphic Novel Review » Elsewhere on the Web: Gray Horses Says:

    […] Lots of Gray Horses love out there this week, actually.  The indefatigable Johanna Draper Carlson weighs in over at Comics Worth Reading, and also points to reviews of Larson’s sophomore effort by David Welsh and Mark Fossen.  A quick Technorati scan reveals that the book has also been reviewed recently by Dylan Abbot, the SFist, Johnny Bacardi, and Publisher’s Weekly (a starred review). […]

  2. Award Winners » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] category (Lulu of the Year) that puts individuals against stores and entire publishers, and I think Hope Larson should have gotten Best New […]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Hope Larson (GrayHorses, Salamander Dream) was mentioned at Publishers Weekly for signing a two-book deal with Simon & Schuster’s young adult imprint. […]

  4. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Promising New Talent Hope Larson, Salamander Dream (AdHouse Books), Gray Horses (Oni Press) […]

  5. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Big Time Attic mimics the look of an old romance comic with a bizarre re-imagining of Pygmalion, only with a post-war car designer instead of a sculptor. Hope Larson’s (Gray Horses) colorful story of college romance takes a more modern approach, told in part through instant messages. Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri parody comics of the 1970s with their Dr. Id, who solves a case of sexual frigidity caused by guilt. […]

  6. The Escape Artist » The Ephemerist Says:

    […] deserving wider recognition, and rightly so. I was very much impressed by the earnestness of her Gray Horses, and it’s very good to see that she’s continuing on that expressive wavy line that […]

  7. O’Malley / Larson Signing in Chapel Hill » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] to Chapel Hill to make for a long day trip. Bryan Lee O’Malley (Scott Pilgrim) and Hope Larson (Gray Horses, Salamander Dream) will be signing at Chapel Hill Comics on Saturday, December 1, from 2-4 PM. […]

  8. Chapel Hill Comics » Bryan Lee O’Malley and Hope Larson signing this Saturday! Says:

    […] Gray Horses review by Johanna Draper Carlson: http://comicsworthreading.com/2006/03/26/gray-horses/ […]

  9. Chiggers » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] reminded of the details.) Chiggers combines the best of Larson’s previous books — from Gray Horses, discovering friendship in a new place, and from Salamander Dream, growing up in a natural […]

  10. Radiator Days » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] talk more about her influences. When she uses a brush, I’m reminded of Craig Thompson or Hope Larson. Pen? More Jen Sorensen. Occasionally a little Alison Bechdel. There’s probably many more […]

  11. *Mercury — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Hope Larson’s books is more accomplished than the one before, from Salamander Dream (2005) to Gray Horses (2006) to 2008’s Chiggers and now Mercury. […]

  12. Who Is AC? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] list, from last year’s A Wrinkle in Time through Mercury and Chiggers to her early Gray Horses and Salamander Dream. Here, she’s writing a magical girl story for artist Tintin Pantoja to […]

  13. Hope Larson Autobio Comic on Picture-Taking » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] pointed. She reflects on student photographers, art school, sniper shots, and a scene from her work Gray Horses in her distinctively solid, curvy, lightly toned […]




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