- Posted by Johanna on June 4, 2009 at 8:01 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Kris Dresen
Kris Dresen has long been a favorite artist of mine. These three books are her newest, self-published through Lulu.com, and very much departures from her previous strip work, which often depended on punchy dialogue about catchy situations.
Every Part of You Is Familiar to Me
Collects the previously issued sketchbook-style comics Paper Women, Don’t Disappoint Me, and Everything/Nothing. (Encounter Her, also reprinted here, is a single story about how two women finally meet.) The pages are frequently gridded, divided into smaller fragments of experience, moments that contribute to the overall page puzzle of just what we’re seeing happen. With no gutters, the images blend together instead of being highlighted separately. Many of the wordless pages are about watching women or love-making of various kinds. (No surprise that this is tagged in Lulu’s lesbian section!) Moments of a particular relationship, the pleasure of touch, of eating, of nature’s seasons … these are captured here.
A particular favorite is “ce masque que je porte”, in which a woman goes through her day in a square wooden mask, until finally she returns home and her lover’s touch removes it. The individual panels are instantly relateable — a desk job, a cafe lunch — while the overall message is more optimistic than some of the other pieces.
The other page style consists of single-panel images with captions that provide some idea of what the artist was thinking about them. Often, they’re close-cropped images of part of a woman — just her face or torso, which makes her seem more symbolic than individual. The reader is asked to bring a lot to the work, combining her experience with what’s on the page to understand or interpret it. I found the images meditative, lovely, and thought-provoking.
A longer work in horizontal format, Grace collects the online graphic novel about an art school student and her growing feelings for a life model. (Both this and the previous book have drawn nudity, FYI.)
I appreciate the print format over the online because it’s much easier to focus on the page as a whole, as well as flipping back to recall what we known or have seen about a particular character. Jordan, the student, is adorable in chapter 3, where she’s getting increasingly embarrassed trying to draw Grace in an attractive pose, a turning point in their encounters.
The book includes dialogue, but many scenes are still wordless. It’s structured such that the events of a silent chapter or two are followed by a chapter where they’re discussed or put into new context. I applaud Dresen’s confidence in her work and how skilled she is at telling the story through images. Aside from working beautifully with the theme of observing and creating art, it’s an important lesson (at least to me) to slow down and appreciate the visuals.
It’s a classic story, the question of how you get to meet someone you’re interested in. The missed cues, the timing that doesn’t quite match up, all these are things anyone who’s ever been in love can relate to. And the characters are so cute in their earnestness that I so hoped for their happy ending as I was reading.
The book has an additional eight pages of background material about the development of the story and characters and the settings.
She’s in the Trees
This is Dresen’s latest work, in color, a wordless story with potent imagery: a raven, fruit, wine. She was experimenting with using a color palette, instead of her usual black and white, and digital painting. It can be read online in full or purchased in print or digital formats.