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Maybe Later
posted February 6, 2006


Creators: Philippe Dupuy, Charles Berberian
Publishing Information: Hardcover, 136 pages, $16.95, June 2006
Ordering Numbers: 1896597211 (ISBN)

Two things strike me about Dupuy & Berberian's Maybe Later picking it up this morning and flipping from page some weeks after plunging all the way through it. The first is that despite the fact that Maybe Later famously features the duo behind Mr. Jean working separately, the volume has that live, organic, jump in anywhere you like and lose yoursel in the ease of a life unfolding in front of you that very, very, very few comics works can manage -- Eddie Campbell does this, and Jim Woodring's non-Frank material has that quality, too, although both are very different kinds of works. Jaime Hernandez has the quality more than Gilbert Hernandez. I think it comes from a certain authority to the drawing combined with an intuitive grasp of universal theme and mood, a unique visual and narrative experience grounded through a range of easily recognizeable and relatable human emotions. It's the kind of book that rewards quick re-reads, going over sections, dipping in and out. It's a place, a headspace, you want to revisit.

If I remember correctly, the work in Maybe Later was created as kind of a process log, a look at how one's life proceeds during the course of a creative effort, in this case one of the pair's collaborations. Subjects include the tough question of how the pair works together, explained gracefully, and the easy question of what kind of things distract the cartoonists. The distractions and their sometimes fanciful artistic rendering (Batman, The Persuaders) provides a lot of the book's visual humor. My favorite is a series of scenes where Dupuy goes on spending sprees and leaves whatever shop bent over in exaggerated, cartoon shame. It's not all about pleasure though, and just because the work lacks the idiotic bombast that many mistake for importance doesn't mean Maybe Later isn't meaningful, firmly grounded and well-observed. The book's most dramatic sequence comes about two-thirds of the way through, where Berberian struggles with feelings of guilt and self-doubt and not being able to connect with the things that matter in his own life. The artist's exit from that state is portrayed with beautiful economy, so that the moment not only communicates Berberian's experince but feels like one of those inexplicable transitions in our own lives, something that leaves the room when we're not looking.

Maybe Later should prove to be one of the summer's best books.