Interested in learning more about Faith Erin Hicks? Check out her guest post here.
The world of manga is full of imaginary people with gigantic eyeballs, and I’m not often a fan. Yes, yes, windows to the soul and all that jazz–but that’s in theory. In ink, manga characters with those enormous eyes usually just come off as these big weird circles with dots in them that pull focus away from the parts of the face that might actually tell me what’s going on with the character. ES UN PROBLEMA. Seriously, you don’t understand how many friends had to get mad at me before I slogged through the swamp of eyeballs that is Scott Pilgrim. And even then I only made it to the other shore because I liked the movie and wanted more clever Canadian jokeyjokes.
Well, Friends With Boys is clever Can-Con with giant eyeballs that, like Scott Pilgrim, is totally visually palatable–even if you don’t get whatever secret anime/manga magic it is that allows people who look at that stuff all the time to make sense of faces that bear scant resemblance to faces like on people. Sweetness.
Hicks is some kind of face genius. Her mouths and eyebrows contribute as much to the voices of the characters as the words she puts in their speech bubbles. Also, in a story that is so much about family, she does an amazing job of making siblings and parents look related, yet distinct (even the twins!).
One of the advantages of a good Canadian graphic novel is that you can be super specific with your setting without alienating anybody who hasn’t been there or bogging them down with a lot of tedious description. I actually had to look up Sandford, Nova Scotia to make sure it isn’t fictional. It isn’t, although all Wikipedia has to say about it is that it contains the world’s smallest drawbridge. Hicks paints a much more layered, complex portrait of the town, the kind that makes me want to hop on my bicycle and just keep going east until I meet a ghost.
Oh. Yeah. Did I mention there’s a ghost? There is a ghost, and she is magnificently oblique and troubling and benign, as I believe ghosts ought to be.
Friends With Boys is a fun, sweet read whose parts fit together magnificently, leaving gaps just wide enough for your imagination to feel invited.
Laura Forsythe resides in Kingston, Ontario where she is always slouching and usually singing crude songs about household tasks, but she doesn’t draw on her hands as much as she used to, so they may make an adult of her yet. She keeps a blog about books and junk at http://ohmynoti.blog.com/