Comics Time: Nicolas

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Nicolas

Pascal Girard, writer/artist

Drawn & Quarterly, December 2008

64 pages

$9.95

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Let’s get two visual elements out of the way: 1) This is one of D&Q’s many, many little brown books, and I don’t understand the attraction to that ugly color; it makes books look like galleys to me. 2) Pascal Girard’s loose, messy minimalism is so close to Jeffrey Brown’s in appearance and effect, particularly in terms of character design, that this is practically a J.B. tribute album; not at all surprising to see Brown show up in the thank-yous. That said? Oof, this is a little gut-punch of a book. It’s a very minimal memoir dealing with the death of writer/artist Pascal Girard’s little brother Nicolas when both brothers were little boys, and how that loss has affected Girard’s life ever since. Starting it off with a three page section called “BEFORE” featuring the two boys playing Ghostbusters together, then abruptly transitioning to “AFTER” with a shot of Pascal sitting there alone is just one example of how pointed and to-the-point this book gets. I’m particularly struck by the decision (a very un-Brownian decision at that) to eschew panel borders and backgrounds entirely and rarely if ever telegraph temporal or spatial transitions. Each page contains two images, almost more doodled than drawn, floating atop the white paper, like the sudden flash of isolated, painful childhood memories to the surface of your otherwise formless and featureless sea of memory. Some sequences are almost too difficult to bear–Pascal clutching his pillow with increasing intensity, his eyes welling with black tears like stormclouds, as his parents finally tell him the story of Nicolas’s final hours; the final flashback, ending with an almost manic number of HA HA HA HA HAs as the two brothers, oblivious as to what is to come, laugh together. Somehow that laughter is an indication of a pain that will never go away.

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