Panel Patter reviews First Year Healthy

“Panel Patter Quick Hits on Michael DeForge, Anouk Richard, Alec Longstreth, and Neil Gaiman/Eddie Campbell” / Panel Patter / Rob McMonigal / February 23, 2015
This story of a young woman who comes out of the mental hospital only to find her life in the regular world gets progressively stranger gives the extremely popular Michael DeForge a chance to play with the storytelling medium of comics by mixing it with the structure of a children's picture book. Instead of using panels and word balloons to propel his story, DeForge puts very small paragraphs of text in extremely tiny type somewhere within the page, then "adapts" that the narrator says in those paragraphs with either one large image that dominates the page or a theme expressed in small illustrations, using the style most readers of the creator will be familiar with.
 
There's no time to spare on any digressions, as the story is only about 30 pages long. Each part of his drawings has to be essential to the plot and to the reader, bringing DeForge into his more familiar short story territory. The imagery here is amazing, too--that lovely mix of the stark, almost Charles Schulz-like use of rounded characters and square backgrounds and disturbing as hell abstractions and perversions that he does so well. The color choices also help keep things off-kilter, such as the menacing figure being albino compared to the narrator's pink skin or that the Dr. Seuss-style mythical cat is orange and green.
 
Best of all, however, is the fact that since we know the main character was mentally ill, she's totally unreliable as a narrator, and as the story takes a turn into the extremely weird, how much of it is real comes into question. It's absolutely brilliant, and I love what he's doing with this one. I know Ant Colony got a lot of praise, but I think I might like First Year Healthy better. 
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