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We Can Still Be Friends
posted July 1, 2008
Blank Slate, softcover, 64 pages, 2008, $12.99
Let's get one thing out of the way: the cartooning in German cartoonist Mawil's second (?) English-language effort is extremely enjoyable and goes down much like a you-name-it paragon of pleasurable pop consumption: Tim Buckley's voice, an exquisitely prepared lemon bar, Bill Cosby in his prime doing stand-up. I haven't seen a book this year other than perhaps the Les Petits Riens
collection that NBM published that offers up this much casual eye candy; I could live in this world for years at a time. That said, the cartoonist's story of missed opportunities with various love interests dances right along the line that divides engaging self-deprecation from tedious, anticipatory confession. This may be troublesome in that Mawil works in a narrative voice that practically begs for super-close examination, a scanning once and twice and maybe even three times for signs of inauthenticity. Worse, many North American comics fans that might be the perfect audience for this story have a knee-jerk, almost rage-filled reaction to material that depicts human frailty of any kind, let alone autobiographically-influenced stories of same.
That latter take on things is patently ridiculous, of course, but the first could pose difficulties. Every so often while reading this material enough of the genial tone slips to one side or the other that one might find themselves scrambling for something to grasp onto other than the thought that our narrator is a really nice guy that just doesn't get it, and once or twice you might even come close to seeing the entire affair as a declaration of innocence more than a gentle examination of one's faults. Audiences may prove kinder to this material than I'm being right now; I'm not certain. There's a wonderful experience to be had in diving into how Mawil sees the world. One just wishes at times there was a little more moral and intellectual complexity to that vision. Once the novelty fades that our lead isn't neurotic nor does he obsess over his situation as patently unfair in the manner of many autobiographical comics works, it's hard to figure out why we should care about his plight one way or the other. It makes me very curious to see other works if only to find out if this is an approach that Mawil deemed appropriate for this subject, or if it's something that is ingrained in the cartoonist's general outlook.