*Lucky — Recommended

Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky is a diary comic unlike most others. It’s the honest portrayal of life as a struggling artist, realized with unusual detail and subtlety. There have been plenty of those types of stories before, but Bell excels at involving the reader, making clear her feelings and the points behind what she chooses to include.

Even the introduction is in comic form, explaining key elements that went into the three minicomic issues reprinted here (with additional stories). As we begin, Bell lives in Brooklyn, working odd jobs and struggling to pay the bills in a series of rented rooms. Usually, these types of stories make me think “thank goodness that’s not me”, but in Bell’s case, it seems inspiring, even with all the challenges and sacrifices. After all, the experience produced this book, so it couldn’t have been that terrible.

The book’s roots as a series of minicomics are visible, but the panels are finely delineated. The art is clear and direct, as are the events, presented with a dry sense of humor. It’s hard to believe that this is drawn more quickly than her other work, given its precision and fine lines. It’s smoothly easy to read. The binding is handsome, with the feel of a diary in the hand due to its lightweight pebbled hardcover and photo album-like black spine and triangular corners.

The figures have simple faces, with dots instead of features, but they’re surprisingly effective. They have a sense of being caught at just the right moment while moving, providing a flow to their actions. As the book progresses, stories become longer, panels larger, and Bell begins using solid black areas to ground her figures. The subjects change from claustrophobic rooms to more external concerns, like displaying and selling art and attending a yoga class.

Throughout, there’s a sense of, not exactly optimism, but determination. Bell is influenced by Ariel Schrag (Potential), but these stories are more adult for all that they include much less sex and drugs. I could identify with her opening conundrum, balancing the need for solitude, from which artistic creation springs, with the desire to spend time with a loved one. These aren’t flashy, dramatic conflicts, but much more universal ones.

My favorite sequence comes late in the book, when Bell’s work as an artist’s assistant leads her to imagine potential futures: losing her own work in the more famous or eventually gaining valuable experience. This book shows that the latter has already happened.

Bell’s previous book was When I’m Old And Other Stories. An excerpt of Lucky is available online. Bell has been interviewed by Tom Spurgeon and Paul Gravett.


3 Responses to “*Lucky — Recommended”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Apr. 9, 2007: It occurs to me that yesterday was some kind of holiday Says:

    [...] Johanna Draper Carlson examines Gabrielle Bell’s collection of short stories, Lucky. (Above: sequence from “The Hole,” one of the stories reprinted in Lucky, ©2006 Gabrielle Bell.) [...]

  2. willhines.net» Blog Archive » Team Brooklyn in a Comic, Kind Of Says:

    [...] a very cool bio-comic out called Lucky by Brooklyn cartoonist Gabrielle Bell that’s being well reviewed by smart people. Most fun for me is that page one of this book shows her going to attend a Team Brooklyn show at [...]

  3. What Makes It Manga? The Building Opposite » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] book it reminds me of most, actually, is Gabrielle Bell’s Lucky, because of its episodic nature and its semi-autobiographical feel. (If the events didn’t [...]




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