Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Little Star by Andi Watson

In the aughts, cartoonist Andi Watson had a string of really wonderful books, mostly from Oni Press --  Breakfast After Noon and Slow News Day and Dumped and Love Fights -- which culminated in this book: Little Star. I don't want to claim it's even better than the rest, but it's a grounded, real-world story about the lives people really live, told beautifully in words and pictures by a creator at the top of his game and (apparently) editorial freedom to tell a story far from the usual expectations of the comic-book world.

Simon is still pretty young, maybe just in his early thirties. He's happily married to Meg and has a lovely daughter Cassie. But just having a little girl deforms a life -- little kids need so much, so often, and are so demanding. Simon's working part-time at a job that isn't quite right for him -- but it's perfect for the family, right now. He wants to try out for a better job, one that will use more of his creative talents -- but that would mean full-time, and would smash their careful child-care structure. And even though Simon is the one caring for Cassie half of the time, she wants her mother more than him far too often -- and says so, in the blunt way only little kids can pull off.

I can't say every family goes through something like this -- some have it much worse, and some have enough money and privilege that hard choices never come into the picture. But it's the world of a lot of us do live in, and have lived in -- where what is best for you isn't what would be best for the family. Everyone has to make those decisions, and Simon makes them here.

Watson brings us into Simon's head, through visual metaphors and lovely stylized art, all angular faces and grey washes. We're there with him the whole time: a man who loves his family but feels stifled, feels unappreciated, feels like he can and should be doing more...if he can only figure which more is the right one.

Little Star is a gem of comics; it tells a story that could live in many media, but tells in a way that's intrinsically comics, and uses the strengths of this medium brilliantly. I keep hoping Watson can get back to doing this kind of book: he's so good at it, and surely the world needs comics for adults who aren't obsessed with characters in tights, right?

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