Friday, January 29, 2016

Blankets Graphic Novel Review

by The Wanderer   

Authors: Craig Thompson  
Illustrators: Craig Thompson
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Genre: Autobiographical Graphic Novel
Series: Standalone

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Heaven is a hope, and Eden is a memory

Blankets is the autobiographical account of author Craig Thompson’s formative years in rural Wisconsin brought to us via graphic novel.  Craig reminisces about his relationship with his younger brother Phil, his fundamentalist Christian parents, and his first love Raina all while growing up and discovering his calling as an artist.

Blankets received the Harvey Award, Eisner Award, and Ignatz Award for best graphic novel, and was rated the best comic of 2003 by Time Magazine. It frequently is featured on, or even tops many greatest comic of all time lists. It deserves the acclaim. Where comics frequently feature explosive action and vigilantes battling for justice, Blankets finds itself occupying a niche that was rarely explored in comics at the time.

What makes this story so great is the candor that’s used to tell it.  Thompson is brutally honest about his thoughts, feelings, accomplishments, and fears.  Where he achieves unparalleled success is within the details he uses to express these emotions. The drawings accentuate all the emotions being conveyed perfectly. Pictures express what words never could.  Many pages go without any dialogue, and really set the scene while giving you the feeling of isolation that the author is frequently struggling with. The instances with out dialogue should also encourage people to read the book who’re intimidated by its near 600 pages.

Craig (the character) explores and questions the Christian philosophies espoused on him by his pastor and his parents. In one poignant scene a member of his congregation tells Craig about how he discontinued a relationship with his brother because he was a homosexual. It’s discoveries like this that alienate him with his church, and eventually with religion in general. Thompson has since admitted that a big inspiration to writing this book was for him to express that he was no longer religious to his parents.  Apparently they took it hard, but eventually came around.

The book is also littered with the small cruelties Craig inflicted upon his little brother Phil. He gets Phil in trouble with his parents, doesn’t help him when he was teased at school, and eventually grows apart with him as they get older despite their shared interest in drawing. If you’ve ever had a sibling, the scenes played out here should strike out a chord of familiarity and with it all the feelings of guilt, sadness, happiness, and self discovery that came with those relationships.

Craig’s first love with Raina is filled with all the enthusiasm that comes with that experience.  He puts her on a pedestal – many people can relate to that experience – and she does the same for him.  It’s a relationship that’s raised to the greatest heights, and yet once reality settles in, it becomes an important learning experience about the letdowns in life. It’s the part of the story that features some of the most beautiful and heart rendering illustrations.

Blankets elevates the art-form of the graphic novel.  It’s truly a remarkable accomplishment, and it’s the perfect entry point into the genre for anyone who doesn’t want to read about superheroes saving the day.

Score: 9.8

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