Written & Art by Craig Thompson
Published by Top Shelf
My Verdict: This book is why comics exist.
Craig is a young boy who, along with his brother, suffers through growing up with fundamental Christian parents who use both the fear of God and the fear of a literal hole in the wall called The Cubby Hole to keep the kids in line. Craig is also a young man who looks back on his life with his family and with his brother and how they’ve grown apart. He’s coming to terms with his art, his faith and falling in love for the first time.
This book is so good it hurts. Thompson has managed to capture teenage uncertainty with a clarity that literally made me ache with recognition–because I’ve been Craig. Oh sure, I managed to luckily miss some of the abuse, but I’ve exchanged those mix tapes, I’ve done unique art for love, and I’ve kept my own version of the blanket in the title. I’ve also spent long hours trying to figure out exactly what God wanted from me and why the things that seemed to be perfectly natural were only supposed to bring me eternal fire and damnation. So I can vouch for the fact that this is Craig’s story, but he’s tapped into what it was like–so much so that the experience of reading the book has left me shaken and this review probably will wind up making no damn sense at all.
[ad#longpost]The writing is real and the art is somehow even…well, more real. At times the style seems rather unique but in other moments, Thompson seems to be able to channel Kuper or Hempel at will. He can also switch to slapstick cartoon or thunderous biblical interpretations in order to get his points across. He also makes great usage of pauses, which a lot of writer/artists have forgotten how to do. The characters are simply there, thinking, considering. Not every panel has to have a word balloon, nor does something have to be “happening.” It’s all happening in their heads and you’re in there with them–though there’s no words to help you with it.
There’s also such brilliant use of space–white space to show distance or blankness or, as when blank pages are left in the foreground waiting for our narrator to sketch on–they’re potential. Potential for what, good or ill, as always, remains to be seen.
Thompson has captured what it’s like to be a confused and bruised soul and how one can get through it and into adulthood–not unscathed of course, but with a healthy respect for one’s scars. The book is almost six hundred pages, but don’t let that frighten you off. It’s an utterly profound achievement in literature–forget just graphic novels–and its honest power can’t be denied. I can’t recommend this enough.
See, told you it wouldn’t make any damn sense.
Quote: “…but I knew I wasn’t competing against him, but against myself–against my own clumsy humanity that had lost synchronization with the earth. In that sense, I always lost.”