12.01.2011

Passage by Tessa Brunton

Passage (Sparkplug Comic Books): Ostensibly, this 32 page graphic novella is about celebrating her brother’s atypical rite of passage into adulthood, but it also serves as Tessa’s own small scale coming of age story. It’s a tale which ultimately sees her defending the sovereignty of her own personality and individual rights. Her offbeat parents are quite distinct, but Brunton wisely roots the story in a suburbia with some commonality we can all identify with. The end result is that the general mood absolutely rings true. Her note perfect details in the pencils lend a sense of authenticity to her quirky upbringing. When you start cataloguing the shading technique, the rampant crosshatching, and the variable line weights, you realize her self-taught style is highly accomplished, culminating with a glorious two page spread that’s a cutaway diagram of her parents’ house. It comes with a penchant for creating rich panels that hum with a lived-in feeling evident in the clothing, the hair, the backgrounds, and the general sense of diversity in all of the figure work. Most importantly, she’s able to capture the dynamic surrounding teenagers’ desire to be alone in order to find their way, much to the chagrin of well-meaning parents who always seem to over-insert themselves into the process. Maybe sequestered youths create hidden personalities as adults, but we should also remember our past while trying to transcend it, as the old saying goes. I enjoy her very dry sense of humor, as she matter-of-factly delivers the gritty details of her “fertility workshops” that intend to celebrate womanhood, and the titular homemade vision quest excursion that serves as her brother’s wacky passage from boyhood to manhood at the hands of the adult men in her father’s social circle. I guess if I’ve learned anything as a parent about teaching kids, which I see reflected back at me in Passage, it’s that you can’t really force the bonds of knowledge at a time of your choosing. It has to happen organically. It’s tough to try and overtly teach a kid, but instead you can try to create an environment, surrounding them with people and settings, where it can happen naturally. There’s nice tension in this book between outward celebrations of self-discovery, and more inward contemplation, in the difference between simple privacy and destructive shame. Perhaps true adulthood means that you’re capable of analyzing information and arriving at your own (hopefully positive) conclusions. Order it today at www.sparkplugcomicbooks.com Grade A.

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