Words, art, colouring and lettering: Charity Russell
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Some days, something appears through your letterbox that puts a smile on your face. Sandwiched between books cataloguing the high jinx of superheroes, and that series revolving around the sycophantic rantings of a highly strung serial killer, this recently released, independent graphic novel made its mark with its sweet appearance harbouring a starkly serious and ultimately intimate and essential theme of fear and anxiety. Now, we’ve all come across fear in the world of comics, whether it’s the muscle-shrivelling fear when our hero or heroine is faced with the supervillain, or the fear of the unspeakable horror in the abandoned asylum; the anxieties and fears outlined in Russell’s beautifully, and at times abstractly, pencilled Light, however, are all but too real. This is a book that encourages thought on the anxieties buried deep within the reader. It also provokes us, as humans, to approach the themes with a view to understanding others, garnering a strong sense of empathy, especially when faced with Russell’s motif of loss and being lost. This isn’t a book designed with enough moral content to clobber the reader over the head, but instead guides us thoughtfully, through image, in a way that leaves us to make the mental connections ourselves.
The narrative begins with our protagonist, sporting a red dress, casting a paper aeroplane through the air of a netherworld where physics and geometry playfully trick the norms we expect. The art captures a world which conceptually has been designed to confuse and frustrate, and in doing so, metaphorically capture those moments of any young life where we step into an environment we scant understand. The twisting vistas capture beautifully the magnitude of anxieties we as humans encounter throughout our lives; oversized pipes, mountainous climbs and shifting groundswells. And as the landscape progresses, we find the walls morph into beasts and sharpening teeth, like a nightmare Riding Hood travelling through a forest of doom. But there is always hope and always a clear route, symbolising hope and survival. The pencilling, in particular the shadowing, captures the nightmare feeling throughout and a great sense of depth and width is maintained to the end. It would be all too easy to treat this work as a series of nightmarish scenarios, but Russell has held strong with the narrative all whilst creating clever, bright motifs, see the morphing footprints, against a backdrop of dark hues and grim tones. This truly feels like a labour of love.
So, who should read this? If I compared Light to Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, where Tan’s book pushed a hard narrative and opened a Pandora’s box of torments and agonies which were much more explicit, Light‘s narrative folds into the creases of the page, only to emerge again, leaving the reader to explore and explain the events. This plays into the hands of fans of visually stunning, ‘silent’ narratives. It will also appeal to lovers of nostalgic but twisted tales such as Brom’s Plucker, another fantasy revolving around the theme of childhood fears, but done so through a much more adult medium. Russell may well have had children and their parents in mind at this book’s conception, but this is much more essential as a book for all people; anyone who has ever felt alone and in despair of the child they once were, and indeed, the child that they still harbour inside. Pick it up and pick up a rabbit hole to that churning feeling deep in your gut when you realise that sometimes, we are all we have.
Available from UK Amazon.
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Review written by Arun S.
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