Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story
By Frederik Peeters
Even after books like Maus and Persepolis and Fun Home and Our Cancer Year, there surely still exists a pervasive sentiment that there are still certain topics that can’t be effectively tackled in the comics medium. After all, we’re talking about a small handful of relatively high-profile books going up against several decades of mainstream marginalization. To most outsiders, the emotional gravity of funny books doesn’t extent that far beyond the death and inevitable resurrection of a Superman or Captain America.
While Spiegelman’s Pulitzer and Bechdel’s Time Magazine Book of the Year nod have certainly made a lot of headway in terms of notoriety and credibility for the medium, it’s also become clear that no one book is going to single handedly legitimize the art form. Instead, it’s fallen upon the artists to consistently yield proof that the medium as suited to tackle the great issues of our time as any other. Fortunately, we’re blessed with creators arguably as skilled and diverse as those of any other modern medium.
While I would hesitate to suggest that Frederik Peeters’s Blue Pills, the author’s first work to receive an English translation, deserves a degree of accolade on-par with a Maus or Persepolis, but the artist’s unflinchingly honest portrayal of one of our era’s most important issues deserves a round of applause from everyone who has ever devoted breath or ink attempting to defend the credibility of the graphic novel.
Blue Pills is the story of Peeters’s love affair with an HIV positive woman. It’s a book that swirls with love, fear, paranoia, and redemption, dealing candidly with moments from the life-changing to the mundane, and doing so with a surprising sense of whimsy that’s not afraid to invoke the occasional talking wooly mammoth in order to help drive a point home. It’s an aesthetic that comes across in the artist’s art as well, in a loosely inked style that will almost immediately endear all of those who fell in love with the playful visuals of Craig Thompson’s Blankets.
Blue Pills is an unquestionably important book, both in terms of its easily enjoyable approach to the heavy-handed subject matter, and as an introduction to a European artist largely unknown in the States–one who, after its publication, will likely be on the lips of American indie comics fans, for many years to come.