This excellent new and original graphic novel by the Canuck artist Von Allan, The Road To God Knows... is astoundingly poignant. And anyone familiar with my reviews knows that "poignant" is not a descriptive term I freely employ. But I was so thoroughly pulled into this story of young and gawky teenager Marie and her complicated relationship with her mother, Betty, that I read the work in one sitting and found myself thinking over its implications for a length of time afterwords. Such envelopment is for me, a true accomplishment.
The story opens with Marie and her mother returning home from the hospital, where the mother had just been discharged after a stay that concerned certain emotional problems. In true slice of life fashion, we learn so much about Marie's lonely world, stuck in the middle of her separated parents while failing to find acceptancel at school. Her salvation comes through her budding friendship with a neighbor girl, the two embarking on a money from-excessive-chores quest for the sole purpose of purchasing tickets to a rare but upcoming pro wrestling exhibition. Marie, awkwardly finding some levels of solace in the fandom hobby. Her interests in the pseudo-sport of professional wrestling, as well as in science fiction, all serve as distraction for the girl, desperate for an escape from the growing problematics of dealing with the psychologically damaged Betty. Betty means as well as any otherwise loving parent, but with the painfully realistic difficulties of struggling for control under the weight of Schizophrenia are seemingly beyond her own power, much less the coping abilities of her teenage daughter- who is already stuck in an embarrassing and frustrating age group. No easy solutions, and no outlets, beyond just silently going on.
This is indeed a very touching, very dramatic tale. Von Allan's dialogue is never at all unrealistic, and the everyday characters presented are fully-formed enough to cause the reader to wonder at what persons may have inspired such situational drama, such quietly desperate burdens. This is the kind of story that wonderfully, moodily, is all too real. Such a rich and honest portrayal of mental illness and the effects such can have on the many persons stuck in the tortured position of loving and/or living with the inflicted.
And the art is absolutely as effective, from smart page constructions sporting fluid faces and gestures to an appropriate pacing that intuitively slows down the camera whenever a forced introspection is dutifully beckoned from the story itself. This movie is shot in real time, with all of the world of nuances that the unbiased camera is always eager and willing to capture, beit for the amusement or judgment, of others. while the overall narrative is a sea of calm before the storm sensation, the few moments of violent action are called into vivid imagining with all the more clarity. And shock, like with ripples in the stillness of waters.
A fantastic and self-aware work, I am thankful in my own way to have come across it. Available through Von Allan's website as a free, downloadable pdf copy, as well as through the Amazons, I advise against going for the computer screen version alone however, as digesting a wholeheartedly brilliant book such as this will fully compel you to want to support the work more viscerally.
Most definitely one of the finest graphic novels of the year, I think.