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Paul Moves Out
By Michel Rabagliati
Published by Drawn and Quarterly; 120 pages; Hardcover

Over the past few years, Michel Rabagliati has been making a name for himself with his thinly velied autobiographical work starring his alter ego Paul. In Paul Gets A Summer Job. Rabagliati transported the reader back to his days as a camp counsellor, a teenage rite of passage tale full of self-realization and the beauty of first young love. It was an incredible offering, one that had me choked up a few times. When a book is able to do that to a reader, envelop one in its illustrated world and make one forget that what they have in their hands is a finely crafted piece of art, when it can put one there in the moment of real life experiences, you know you've experienced something pretty unique.

With Paul Moves Out, Rabagliati does it again with seemingly effortless magic. Again one is drawn in and unable to be released until the final page gently leads you out into the present real world. That, folks, is true storytelling power.

Paul Moves Out opens in 1983, where Rabagliati/Paul has just made that life-altering move into his first home as an adult. With him is new girlfriend Lucie, a young woman he met in art school. With the music of Boy George's "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" in the background, once again the reader is invited into Rabagliati's memory of the time. You will learn to love Paul's eccentric Aunt Janette who travelled the world's exotic locales, and is surprisingly open minded from the experience even in her advanced years.

Rabagliati then flashes back to art school and the events that will lead him to living on his own. In school he and his classmates are taught staid, outdated graphic design courses, until the arrival of an avant garde new teacher who plays a pivotal role in Paul's development both as a human being and as an artist. We also meet future love Lucie, their long friendship played out with gentle painful realism as Paul pines for her. All of this is written with Rabagliati as occasional narrator, a voice reflecting on the events that are unfolding upon the page.

Rabagliati is a master of dialogue, not one false moment in the memory, not one word uttered that may make the reader exclaim, "Wait, that doesn't quite ring right!" Every character lives and breathes in the past world Rabagliati remembers with all human foibles and frailties intact. Indeed, he truly puts himself in that top tier of autobiographical comic writers -- Pekar, Crumb or Kochalka, name one and Rabagliati is there. There's one moment with Paul's new teacher that leaves both the reader and Paul in a state of embarrassed discomfort with the sheer awkward unsure believability of it. Few can master such emotions on the page, let alone give into thoughts of what possibly could have happened as easily as Rabagliati/Paul is able. There is a definite sense of self-insight here few autobio cartoonists let alone the finest writers of other literature are able to express so well.

Rabagliati's uncanny writing is equally matched by his impeccable linework, a style influenced by Herge by way of Seth. The artwork aids and abets the narrative in luring so well the reader into the work, a fluid, almost simplistic cartoony style that still captures vital life and emotion in ways other artists in the comics field often only dream of, creating vivid, living, breathing characters on the page. Even the pet canary Paul and Lucie share has his own little personality though he is little more than simple shapes and lines. Cityscapes and location shots are used masterfully to drive the story along, effectively creating a sense of time and place. It's an artistic tour de force that to Rabagliati's credit never seems overdone, his sense of design in tune with his fine scripting abilties.

Paul Moves Out in the end is another amazing effort from an artistic voice that only seems to be growing by leaps and bounds with each successive work. Rest assured you will want to accompany Rabagliati on this emotional rollercoaster ride of life, to be enveloped in his elegantly powerful memoirs again and again. Grade: 5/5

-- Jason Marcy



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