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posted October 26, 2010
Gaze Books, softcover, 64 pages, 2010, $10.00
This is a Xeric-funded release from Blaise Larmee's Gaze Books
imprint. Its aesthetic should be familiar to anyone that took in Larmee's own Young Lions
. The art is loose, the tone is pensive, and the overall effect is a keen sense of longing communicated through a narrative that rests so lightly on the page the slightest wind could send it tumbling away. I have nothing in common with my mind's eye view of the kind of person that would like this kind of comic except that I really like this kind of comic, too. Comics seems ideally suited to moments of inchoate reflection. Sometimes when words fail it's comics that can come to their rescue, a stumble of words and pictures suggesting portent and possibility when a precise clarity of meaning remains far beyond one's grasp.
Koch's story of a young woman struggling to find firm footing after losing a loved one works better, I think, for its lack of scope and traditional ambition: The Whale
is meditative on a single effect, one person's state of mind at a specific, limited point in time. This both affords it its own unique verve and limits its potency a bit. The cartoonist has the luxury to dwell on certain permutations of the experience her character moves through, but in doing so fails to connect to a broader context. You go on this trip, or you stay home. Koch also employs page construction and lettering effects that feel like a default, unexamined way of utilizing those elements of craft. The lettering in particular seems to be something that might have benefited the book more directly had an alternative strategy -- or a variety of them -- been put into play. The text at times overpowers some of the more delicately constructed visual sequences. Still, there are several individual moments to which I connected in this book. Wishing for greater restraint and breadth of emotion from a work like this one seems like the kind of hope that may one day be fulfilled.