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Monday, July 14, 2008

Lucky Vol. 2 #2 -- Gabrielle Bell seems to open up a lot more in this latest issue of her mostly autobiographical series than she did in the collected Lucky Vol. 1, which I reviewed a couple of years ago. Bell's character even admits at one point that she doesn't "feel interested in anything...[doesn't] feel engaged in anything." This is an improvement over that Lucky collection (both it and this series are published by Drawn and Quarterly), in which Bell's character at times seemed disinterested and unengaged and didn't seem to know it. Even this small admission lets the reader into her world, making this issue seem more vital and interesting, as Bell recounts her days on the road in the Pacific Northwest, and at home in Brooklyn.

The standout story takes place in Brooklyn, as Bell brings her laptop into the shop for repair. Learning she has to leave it there for two days, she feels the powerful pangs of internet withdrawal, which leads to some genuinely insightful self-examination and some universally applicable observations about why some people feel the constant need to check their email for new messages: "So I've concluded that what I'm really looking for is love and money," she says, and she makes a good case. Bell's visual mapping of her MySpace experience is both funny and brilliantly to-the-point.

Bell's cartooning consists of almost exclusively medium-distance depictions of her characters and their situations, which does give her work a somewhat detached air; after reading her recounting of a robbery at gunpoint that she experienced, ask yourself how any other cartoonist might have zoomed in on certain moments or otherwise manipulated the images for maximum impact and drama.

The technique has the positive effect of allowing the reader to make their own judgments about a lot of what Bell depicts, but it also makes it harder to get a sense of her as a character, never mind the other people she depicts. You'd be hard pressed to describe their features no matter how many times you read these stories, and if you can't see people's faces except from a distance, you lose a lot of information about their expressions and therefore their state of mind. It's obviously a conscious choice Bell makes, and I don't know if it helps or hurts the reader relate to her comics, but it's impossible not to notice.

I do find the majority of Bell's stories interesting, but I'm addicted to autobiographical comics. How you feel about the genre, I think, will largely decide your feelings about Gabrielle Bell's work. But this issue is a good place for you to introduce yourself to it, if you haven't already. Her stories aren't like a lot of what you find in comics, autobiographical or not, and that alone is a good reason to give Lucky a look.


Lucky is published by and available from Drawn and Quarterly.



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