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Lucky Vol. 2, #1
posted September 6, 2007
Drawn & Quarterly, comic book, 32 pages, May 2007, $3.95
Aside from issues of quality regarding the work itself, Gabrielle Bell's entry into the slowly revitalizing alternative periodical market makes for one attractive publishing package. It's small enough to make for an intimate reading experience without losing detail, it's attractively designed, and it's stuffed with comics of sufficient enough narrative density that it demands a fully engaged reading experience -- in other words, there's no way you could read it in the store -- all for a reasonable price by today's standards. If something of this obvious quality came out once a week from at least one of the alt-comix publishers, the one-time every-Wednesday customer base for such comics might even be restored.
Bell splits her book between an autobiographical story and a fantastic, dream-like tale -- in fact, it may actually be a dream, I'm not certain. The diary comics are dated up top and follow Bell through a comics art show (SPX, I'm guessing, complete with a trip on the Chinatown bus) and a performance related visit to Canada. I found this material to be much more potent on a panel to panel basis than some of Bell's earlier works. She's worked richer blacks into a style I remember being dominated by the line work. The insights are frequently humorous, and a few of the epiphanies are downright lovely. I'll never for the life of me understand it when people make snotty calls for autobiographical comics to come solely from people who lead freak-show, outlandish lives consisting of drunken, sloppy adventures. I mean, I love those comics, too. I could even play a solid game of Comparative Escapades if I had to. But certainly sensitivity to what you're seeing, the skill with which an experience is related, or an insight into some aspect of the human condition are also factors that contribute to worthwhile art. I don't know how they'll be printed for posterity, but I liked those stories' inclusion here. It feels like Bell is working to improve, pushing through a variety of storytelling strategies, trying on comics for size.
This is true in the second story as well, the kind of comic that you used to see first generation alternative comics artists drop from subsequent collections short of "complete" volumes. "My Affliction" feels less assured but has its own noteworthy moments. I love an image of Bell sleeping on the floor of a closet, and the creepy yet still slightly endearing visual of Bell climbing into someone's lap, forcing intimacy onto at least two reluctant subjects. I'd read more stories like that one, although I can't help but think there's a greater end to come through the autobiography, off-hand critics be damned.