Aline and the Others
Guy Delisle, writer/artist
Drawn & Quarterly, November 2006
On the one hand this book is an absolutely magnificent display of bravura cartooning–understated, energetic, loose as a goose, full of the joy of imagemaking. In a fashion reminiscent of Bill Plympton’s animated shorts, Delisle creates miniature portraits of various, mostly unpleasant women in wordless-strip form. The uniform layouts–tight grids of 15 tiny square panels per page–provides a static contrast by which we can marvel at Delisle’s effortless line and proficiency with delivering whatever tone he chooses–kinetic action in “Rita,” genuine erotic heat in “Diane” and “Karine,” delightful and unexpected visual puns throughout (my favorite, I think, was “Irene,” where both of the title character’s arms slide out of her left socket as though they were connected through her shoulders like an axle). Delisle chronicles his own sexual neuroses and issues with as much candor and visual cleverness as you’re likely to see this side of John Cuneo’s similar project nEuROTIC.
On the other hand, it’s quite easy to read this book as savagely misogynistic in its repeated reduction of women to their constituent body parts, or its repeated depiction of staid portly women as literally holding the pneumatic sluts within themselves prisoner, or its repeated message that women are materialistic, hypocritical assholes who’d just as soon make men miserable for no reason as look at them, let alone fuck them. Men don’t come off that great either, but that’s usually because they were stupid enough to get involved with women in the first place. The tone gets so strident that it flattens out the sophistication and creativity of Delisle’s ideas–cleavage and vaginas swallowing men whole, a literal vagina dentata, yes yes, we get it. It’s entirely possible that this is all quite self-aware–the existence of the androcentric companion volume Albert and the Others would appear to indicate that, though I haven’t read the book itself–but it’s also entirely possible that that doesn’t matter, and that at a certain point putting your conflicted or outright hostile feelings toward women on display leads to reinforcing them rather than confronting them. I honestly don’t know. It’s a powerful comic book, I’ll give it that.