Graphic Novel Round-up – March

I’m Never Coming Back by Julian Hanshaw

I’m Never Coming Back is a collection of surreal short stories that border on the bonkers. A few of them miss the mark and left little impact on me but for the most part the stories are wonderful pieces of dreamlike fiction. A particular favourite is the tale of a man who moves to the seaside to run a restaurant where he is visited each day by a man in a deep sea diver’s suit. It’s hard to summarise the story due to its length. But, it’s a great view of loneliness, anxiety and alienation.

Another story that appeals is of a man who seemingly communicates with a crab and foresees disaster that will soon be upon him and the town in which he stays. Each story lingers on desolation and being out of place. Each story tells a vast story, even if they only last a few pages due to Hanshaw’s stunning artwork.

The stories are depicted with the minimal amount of pencil strokes leaving each panel simplistic but effective, even the background to the panels have been given vast amounts of care and attention. Much of the colour palette is muted and allows the emotion to burst out from the bizarre tales. The whole book is a thing of beauty.

The entire book just pops with imagination and draws you in. It’s humorous, smart and distracts you from the mundane – injecting a touch of the ludicrous into your life, even if it’s for a short period.

The Vicar Woman by Emma Rendel

This is one of the most sinister books I’ve ever read. It is an ever so creepy story that revolves around a sombre premise brought to life by outlandish and farcical characters. The story opens with a female vicar arriving on a small island to lead their congregation. Upon arriving she finds a community gripped by guilt and paranoia and a story of a small girl who killed her Father when she burned their house down, it’s a very bleak story.

Emma Rendel has written a brilliant ghost story that is constantly buoyed by marvellous turns of humour that add a great balance to the graphic novel. The art mirrors the premise to perfection. Rendel uses characters that vary from human looking to those with beaks, fur or even Pinocchio style noses. The islanders are absurd. The lack of colour lends itself well to the darker side of the story and heightens the creepiness. Her artwork is delightfully twisted and casts out any reality replacing it with only imagination.

Everything flows brilliantly from the sweeping and simple story to the speech bubbles that stretch across pages to match random sentences with distant cast members. It should be also mentioned that there is very little in the way of dialogue and it leaves the reader filling in the gaps themselves. A short, punchy and gripping read filled with surreal and barmy artwork. The ending isn’t particularly satisfying and the story won’t be for everyone, though.

Please God, Find Me a Husband by Simone Lia

I quite enjoyed this graphic novel, but if I’m honest, I’m not sure why. The story of a 33 year old Christian woman who wants to find a husband didn’t really appeal to me and by the end I was a little nonplussed about it. However, the humour that Simone Lia injects is brilliant and I adore her artwork.

The story is what I would call polarising. I wasn’t bowled over by the story at all, it was interesting but to be honest lacked a hook to drag me in. But that’s just me; someone more interested may devour the book and ask for more. I wasn’t interested in her talks with God, her stay in a convent or trip to Australia. However, I loved her sense of humour and the attitude to religion which pokes fun but never crudely. I adored her depiction of Jesus playing Operation with her younger self.

As with many graphic novels nowadays, the art is simplistic but it has a sweet and endearing quality that fills you with smiles. The vast majority of the book is built from hues of blue and other colours are only used sporadically within speech bubbles. Her characters can be described as traditionally cartoony which is just lovely and again, adds to the uplifting moments in the story.

Lia uses her graphic novel to flesh out everyday feelings of love, angst and hormones but of course her featuring of religion also raises plenty of questions on faith. There are some lovely moments that will inspire and teach personal acceptance. It’s a lovely book that lacks in story but brims with good feeling and superb art.

All three of these graphic novels are published by Jonathan Cape. These books were kindly supplied by the publisher.

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