Thursday, 30 August 2007

Review: Lucky

Lucky volume 2 issue 1, “My Slideshow” and “My Affliction” by Gabrielle Bell, 32 pages of strip, Drawn & Quarterly, May 2007, CDN$4.25

In this issue of Lucky, Bell presents two inter-linked stories. The second, slightly longer, tale “My Affliction”, is a dream-like narrative of giants, dogs and sudden emotional attachments. The first, shorter, story is a directly autobiographical piece in which Bell presents “My Affliction” as a slideshow and attends a comics convention in the United States.

The two stories share a common presentation. Each uses a regular and invariable six-panel grid. Almost all panels show full-length figures in medium shot. The exceptions can be seen as reinforcing this rule. For example, in one panel, we see a close-up of a hand holding a wooden doll, but the doll itself therefore takes the place of a full figure, foreshadowing its later transformation into a person. Throughout, Bell draws with a largely unmodulated, even line, adding shading and weight with hesitant patches of black.

The effect of these techniques is that both stories proceed at a steady, even monotone, like a passage of prose made up of sentences of similar length, all beginning, “And then…”. But this has different effects in the two halves. In “My Affliction”, it makes the bizarre events and transformations seem mundane and plausible, while in “My Slideshow”, the unnatural regularity creates a sense of unease and tension. Thematically, the two stories also seem to take complementary tacks: “My Slideshow” is predominantly about Bell’s internal state and insecurities, while “My Affliction” externalises her emotions onto her relationships with the dream characters she meets.

The result conveys to me more mood than meaning, but that’s no bad thing. Normally, I find little interest in accounts of a cartoonist’s day to day life, and less in the recounting of dreams, but by linking the two, without drawing blatant parallels, Bell has produced something much more engaging.

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