- Posted by Johanna on April 22, 2008 at 7:54 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by Jamie S. Rich; art by Joelle Jones
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $14.95 US
This charming/frustrating graphic novel captures the key points of a relationship in twelve well-chosen scenes. (Each has a theme song listed to start, too, in case you want the full sensory experience.) Gwen’s a fascinating character, turning expectations on their head from the first chapter, their first date. She buys Evan flowers, which makes him grumpy and petulent. He doesn’t understand her meaning, but instead of asking about it, he jumps to his own conclusions.
Their lack of communication continues into the next scene, where they’re shown to have very contrasting approaches to life. She’s creative and playful, to the point of annoyance, while he’s practical, sometimes even stodgy. If Evan would let her make her own choices, he’d wind up happier. To be fair, there may be reasons for him to be suspicious, since she plays with his expectations too much.
It’s around this point that I started thinking that the two of them would never work out, although I wanted them to. It takes two tries for them to have a successful first date, for instance, although the second is quite charmingly philosophical. Later we see how he can be thoughtless and judgmental, probably due to his inability to read other people’s reactions. He pushes too far because he doesn’t know how he’s coming off. And that’s why I say frustrating — they’re interesting people, I want them to be happy, but I don’t believe they’re happy together. Even though I want them to get what they think they want.
Joelle Jones makes her debut in stunning fashion. Her style impressively changes to match the mood of each piece. And that’s necessary, because Jamie Rich’s script relies on her art — he’s comfortable letting the images tell the story when needed. The reader gets to see the leads interact instead of being told what they’re thinking and feeling. That’s still obvious, though, through the well-drawn gestures and attitudes of the two. And they’re both cute. He’s got a Dean Cain-ish charm, with glasses and a great smile, while her punch of her gorgeous body is lightened by a sprinkling of freckles across her nose.
The first real show-offy moment (although I don’t think that was the intent, it’s just shockingly good and could be used as a presentation piece) is chapter four, where Gwen gets a monologue. Each page is a moody closeup in keeping with the feel of the season she’s describing, backed with a grey wash. Evan gets a corresponding chapter later on, done in high-contrast, mostly black pages. His section also starts off being about her, the way he sees her.
That’s the odd thing about the book — we get more of an impression of how he thinks, with her motivations remaining opaque. That’s a common quality of romance comics written by men. They understand the male and create complex motivations for that side of the relationship, but the woman retains some mystery. Here, that’s even the case although more characters talk about her and her history than about him. But then, that’s also part of her background, that she doesn’t know certain things about herself. Or maybe I’m reading more into it than intended, because I’ve known people like him but not so much like her.
With careful attention, the chapter pieces can be reassembled into time-based order, but I do wish I knew how the author views them winding up, eventually. That lingering question is part of what makes the book so fascinating.
A preview is available at the publisher’s website. The two creators have been interviewed online. The writer and artist both have websites. For another example of Rich’s take on romance, see Love the Way You Love.