Comics Time: H Day

H Day
ReneƩ French, writer/artist
PictureBox, November 2010
200 pages, hardcover
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I’ll admit it: No way would I have guessed this book was about migraines if it didn’t say so on the back cover. Once you see it you can’t unsee it, of course, but I don’t think there’s anything inherent to H Day‘s wordless imagery of a faceless, sexless figure enduring various almost Bill Plymptonesque head traumas on the left-hand page of each spread while dogs and people navigate imposing buildings, deep waters, and invading ants on the right-hand page that says “headaches.” But so what, really? The alley I’d have gone down would have been invasive thoughts, or depression, or anxiety, something psychological, and it would have worked just as well. In all these cases, sufferers see the space inside their heads swell to (pre)occupy all the space around them. In all these cases sufferers can feel under attack by tiny crawling things that skitter and smother, ropes that blind and bind, giant formless monoliths that threaten to collapse and crush, dark waters that tug and drown. And in all cases the final emergence on the other side feels not so much like a fists-in-the-air triumph as a satisfying escape that still doesn’t lesson the pain of having had something to escape in the first place. And if you’re a fan of French’s impossibly fine-grained pencil art, this is as strong a showcase of it as has ever existed. It’s the largest her tiny square panels have ever been reproduced, as far as I know, and the soft-focus grays are a how’d-she-do it marvel, while her proficiency with horror imagery involving seemingly thousands of tiny black ants or wormlike strings/stringlike worms is unequaled. I’d say read it once for the “story,” then keep it right on the edge of the bookshelf for a ready-to-hand showcase of one of comics’ finest, eeriest craftspeople and image-makers.

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