Unilaterally Sarcastic, Dangerously Cheesy

Review – Gingerbread Girl

SYNOPSIS: There are many verifiable facts concerning 26-year-old Annah Billips. She likes sushi and mountains and piglets, but hates paper cuts and beer breath. She flirts with girls and boys, and loves to travel. She might have a missing sister… or she might be totally insane.

Did Annah invent an imaginary sister named Ginger during her parents’ traumatic divorce? Or did her mad scientist father extract part of her brain and transform it into a living twin? In this whimsical, thought-provoking graphic novel, a host of narrators (including boyfriends, girlfriends, neighbors, bystanders, magicians, and passing animals) try their best to unlock the mystery of Annah… and the Gingerbread Girl.

Reading this graphic novel will perplex a good many of its readers. There is a narrative here, and that narrative is delightfully constructed and handles multiple points of view well enough that I would venture to say that the manner that the story progresses is one of the more inventive devices I’ve read in recent years. The only problem that most readers will find is that, much like everything in life, at the end of it all no real clear answers to the pertinent questions are really given. There are suppositions and educated guesses, but nothing ever jumps out and puts the final seal on the major crux of the storyline.

But that’s not really all that important. The question of whether or not our protagonist is a loon really does not form the crux of the book at all, and the meat and potatoes of the story is really how the protagonist’s actions and beliefs force others to examine their own choices when it comes to dealing with her. This is a character study in 112 pages. It’s a psychological examination of how the world reacts to people who travel off the beaten path and though the conclusion of the tale may leave some a bit frustrated, it’s well worth a read. Writer Paul Tobin does an excellent job of making sure the thread of the narrative is carefully constructed and though some may find fault with it, I believe many complaints will be lodged by the book defying conventional expectation rather than due to any sort of failure on the part of the writer.

Colleen Coover has a very distinctive artistic style that absolutely compliments the story here and it would be hard to make a case against her minimalist technique when it comes to the aesthetic of this particular story. She would not be the right fit for an X-Men title, but for stories like this she reminds me a great deal of someone like Darwyn Cooke, whose style could hardly be called realistic but is the very definition of evocative. It really is some great work and the color scheme, muted and dulled with blues and soft earth tones really sets the mood for the story that unfolds.

If you’re looking for something that will make you reflect on the contents of what you’ve just read you really should give the book a chance. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it’s a nice change of pace from the mainstream comic work that I’ve been reading as of late.

Supplemental:

Interview with Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover at Under The Radar
Order Gingerbread Girl at Top Shelf Productions

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