Comics Beat Reviews Nicolas

“Review: Two tiny books with big differences between them” / Comics Beat / John Seven / October 11, 2016

This is a deceptively simple book that takes slices from the life of creator Pascal Girard’s life that all revolve around his younger brother, who died as a child. Girard’s cartooning takes form in simple scrawls, but the childlike renderings hint at the young man who lives inside Girard and has since his brother died.

Each simple line is an utterance by someone hidden trying to express himself and his anger but unable to focus in on what exactly his emotions spring from. Clearly, they sprouted from the death of his brother, but the reality of that death is so complex and without a center — there is no blame to go around — that anger can only be expressed without a target.

Girard tells his own story with clarity, never letting himself off the hook easily, nor coming down too hard on himself. He has patience for his own life — and if he doesn’t, who will?

Girard must let his story — and his self-examination — unfold in vignettes. Rather than intricately going over the sweeping psychology of the incident and his life after, he focuses in on the little moments that speak to the larger truths. Particularly sad are the moments just after Nicolas’ death, where, as a young boy, Girard can’t possibly live up to the grief that is no doubt expected of him.

He doesn’t quite understand the big deal, and he expresses that confusion with a kid’s nonchalance and self-indulgence. As the years wear on, we see how the whole of growing up becomes a prolonged kind of grieving for Girard, an elongated process that includes the creation of this book as part of it. Originally published 10 years ago, Girard has added an afterword to this new edition that traces even further how Nicolas affects Girard’s current relationships and his own psyche.

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