Published by: Other
Written by: Craig Thompson
Artist: Craig Thompson
Plot: Semi-autobiographical tale about young Craig's strict religious upbringing, his relationship with his brother, his relationship with God, and falling in and out of love for the first time.
Review: When I'm introducing someone to the world of comics, someone who's never read them before and whose only impression of them is from mainstream spandex-brigade characters like Batman or Superman, Blankets is one of the first books that immediately springs to mind. I've heard several people say that if you want to get your non-nerdy girlfriend into comics, this is the book to show her. And while I hate to simply parrot what others have said, I have to admit that they're onto something there. I hold this book in the same esteem that I do Preacher, or Watchmen or Sandman. Seriously, it's that good--this is firmly ranked in my Top Five favorite comics, easily being one of the best I've ever read.
Thompson has said that in this series he wanted to "describe what it feels like to sleep next to someone for the first time" and in that regard I'd say he hit a home run. I have never read a more tender, moving, or accurate account of what it feels like to be a young person falling in love. Thompson gracefully touches on the full range of swirling emotions from the elation of discovering and getting to know another person to the hollow emptiness of growing apart. In this, the book is a smashing success, and more importantly, a thing of lasting beauty.
The narrator's relationship with his younger brother is also deftly handled, realistically, convincingly and movingly potraying what it's like to have a younger sibling. I'd believe that someone who doesn't have a brother or sister could get a damned good idea of all the joys and frustrations that growing up with a brother or sister entails by reading this book. The book opens with the narrator and his brother at a very young age, and portrays with some melancholy how their relationship changes as they grow older, touching on both the resentment that an older sibling may feel at being looked up to and followed around, and the desire to care for and protect a younger sibling from harm.
But the thing that struck perhaps the biggest chord with me personally was the way the book handles the topic of religion. Thompson's narrator begins the book with a blind, unquestioning faith that was drilled into him by his parents, but the more he learns about religion, and the more he experiences the realities of life, the more he begins to question the simple, unsatisfying answers given to him by the church. Eventually, he becomes disillusioned and abandons organized religion altogether, but this is handled with a tremendous amount of honesty and softheartedness, offering up none of the contention that permeates many works that touch on this kind of subject matter. I found that young Craig's path to knowledge poignantly mirrored my own conflicts with organized religion in many ways.
Thompson's artwork is simple, fluid, graceful, and surprisingly evocative of emotion for something so modest, and it fits the tone of the story perfectly. Blankets could easily have been an overwrought, pretentious work bogged down by its own sense of importance, but it's one of the most honest and unassuming works I've ever read. It's a comic that feels more like a poem or a song than a comic, and even though it's nearly 600 pages long, by the time it's over you'll find yourself sad that it's ending far too soon.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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