The webcomics blog about webcomics

No Wasted Words

This is something that I’ve resisted writing for a while; I wanted to hold off and look at the work in question as a whole, but it’s become increasingly difficult as the story progresses and gets stronger and more revealing as it does. I’m probably jumping the gun a little, but today is when I decided that I couldn’t wait any longer. And with that out of the way, I suppose I should tell you what the heck I’m on about.

I’ve written several times before that Meredith Gran was doing the best work of her career on Octopus Pie, and I meant it every time; I’ll go so far as to say that she’s the one of the few creators with a long-running comic that hasn’t hit a rut or plateau — she’s been on a long, improving arc, punctuated by bursts where she ups her game to an astonishing degree. Remarkably, each of those bursts takes a different approach.

She’s previously dropped in story arcs that played with the overall plot and progression of Octopie; she’s done arcs that played with the form of the comic. What she’s doing in the latest storyline (which starts here and which rewards a familiarity with the characters but which will still entice the first-time reader) trumps everything she’s done before.

Without ever once tipping her hand, she’s showing us how breakups work from multiple perspectives; she’s letting us hear the words (and not many of them, more on that in a bit) that come out of their mouths, but their body language¹ tells us when those words are false. We see the lies that these characters tell themselves and each other, we see them stripped down to their innermost cores, and there’s not a wrong beat or misstep along the way as the focus of the story shifts from Eve to Hanna to Will to Aimee. Everything that happens is smooth and organic and (in retrospect) inevitable.

And quiet. The words are perfect, the words are true, but the real revelations come in the silent panels, or the ones where the words are tiny and unimportant. I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that partway through this storyline Gran made the decision to use social media in a different way — her day is quieter, and her comic is quieter, and every word has weight. I can’t find a single one that isn’t entirely necessary.

As Eve and Hanna and the presently absent (maybe permanently) Marek and Will and Marigold and all the other characters age out of their twenties, the exaggerated nature of their reality (overturned cars and evil skaters and escapes out windows and exploding lairs of evil geniuses and rock lobsters and renfaire misadventures and, and, and) is getting sanded down in the face of … reality? adulthood? There’s a palpable sense of change and maturation, that things can’t stay the way they have been. There’s a feeling that you can’t stay the way you were in your twenties, not unless you want to wake up one day and suddenly you’re fifty and have turned into Olly.

There’s a feeling of a stage of life — the one that comic keys on — coming to an end, and with it our time with the characters. I’ll miss them terribly, but in a period of time where Gran said she’s been working on layout and drawing, and when her writing has broken through to the next level, I can only imagine what her next project will look like when she can unleash those skills on something open and new and unrestrained. It’s a sad time in the Brooklyn of Octopus Pie, but it’s a great time to be reading Meredith Gran.

And tomorrow? Next month? Next year, and the years after that? They’re going to be even greater.

By happy coincidence, somebody else was in a pensive mood today; if you haven’t read Ryan North’s incredibly moving essay on A Softer World and his friendship with Emily Horne & Joey Comeau, now would be the time to do that.

Spam of the day:

Don’t continue putting off your lifestyle change.

Unlike Dentarthurdent, I am not having tremendous difficulty with my lifestyle. It’s pretty good in fact, but thanks I guess?

¹ Weirdly, it reminds me of Fury Road; I read a description online (and I’m sorry, I neglected to note who said it; if you know, please share!) that given the dearth of dialogue, Fury Road amounted to the loudest silent movie ever made. The emphasis on showing, the use of language to the degree required and not one syllable more, resulting in clarity of motivation … that’s what I’m getting at.

RSS feed for comments on this post.