Lucky Vol. 2 Issue 2
By Gabrielle Bell
Drawn & Quarterly
What makes your life so damned interesting? It’s one of those key questions that has steadily devolved into cliché, over the years, something that every artist flirting with autobiographical modes of expression must ask themselves, a question that will no doubt be repeated ad naseum with every subsequent interview and public appearance, a phenomenon that seems to go double in the world of independent comics, where autobiography is very nearly the default form of narrative structure. For those who have led lives chalk full of extraordinary circumstances, the answer is clear. For the vast majority of us, things are decidedly less cut and dry.
Until recently, perhaps—with her large-scale acclaim in the comics medium and forthcoming forays into the world of film—Gabrielle Bell largely occupied the latter category, leading a fairly typical existence as a young artist, bouncing around various big cities. It’s a life that carries over into this second volume of her largely autobiographical series, Lucky. This second issue is a collection of vignettes whose subject matter really deviates from the sorts of goings-on to which, one expects, a large portion of her readership can directly relate. Any atypical experiences, like, say, co-scripting a film with Michel Gondry, largely occur outside 8.5 x 5.5 card stock that envelops the book.
Such narrative modesty proves a wise decision on Bell’s part, never straying too far from the everyday—oft internal—struggles that defined its predecessors. And while it will doubt be fascinating to watch her sometimes introverted protagonist confront that mythological beast, Hollywood, should she pen her own seemingly inevitable version of Our Movie Year several issues down the line, the author clearly still has ample fodder to mine from more seemingly banal topics.
Unlike Pekar, that spiritual forefather to every subsequent work of graphic autobiography that has dabbled in the mundane, however, Bell’s magic doesn’t always rely solely on life’s in-between moments. Rather she often opts to let her visuals paint their own truths, be it through overly literal translations of a friend’s story that she’s chosen to reappropriate, or fantastical graphic depictions of one of her own otherwise straightforward tales, like her struggle to wean herself off of Myspace, which culmitnates with a panel in which the author is stabbing her page’s physical personification (ostensibly stabbing herself) in the chest, whilst dousing a wall of flames in the hall it occupies with a canister of gasoline.
The book’s other highlights seemingly occupy the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Bell’s storytelling is oft at its best when at its most quiet and internally reflective. The most powerful moments of “When I was Eleven,” a brief childhood aside that closes out the book, occur in a handful of largely wordless panels that make up much of the story’s midsection. Narration would have no doubt seemed a touch overbearing, juxtaposed with the emotionally powerful silent images of a young Bell walking alone through an autumn leaf-covered summer camp.
It’s a lesson Bell demonstrates that she has happily learned at various moments in the latest issue of Lucky, which, while growing more complex visually—thanks in no small part to Bell’s far more confident lines and newfound affinity for shading—regularly finds the author more confident working with fewer words. As Bell’s visual style has come more into its own, she has proven herself more and more willing to let it relieve her text of much of its storytelling load. It’s Bell’s increasing mastery in the delicate balance of these two sometimes opposing forces that make even the most banal moments of her life so incredibly readable.