Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Review | Five of this year’s best graphic novels make perfect summer reads


Three-fourths of the way into Maurice Vellekoop’s textured memoir, the Canadian cartoonist delivers a pure heartfelt payoff. The last reel makes everything worth the wait.

“I’m So Glad We Had This Time Together” — the title nods to the experience of growing up with “Carol Burnett Show”-era television while being enchanted with Barbie dolls and Disney fairy tales — unfolds mostly chronologically, from innocent, often joyous boyhood to the rocky journey of adult self-discovery.

Over the course of the book, Vellekoop comes out to his strict Calvinist immigrant parents, leading to a long estrangement from his intolerant mother, with whom he had once taken buoyant shopping trips. Their fraught relationship provides one arc of ongoing painful poignancy.

As in Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” the role of art-making is also deftly threaded through the narrative, sometimes providing personal enrichment, sometimes serving as a means of escape. Once Vellekoop heads off to art school, film and live performance especially serve not only as social glue but also as mirrors for meaning. Meanwhile, his romantic life unfolds in fits and starts — partly during the rise of AIDS — as he works out his complicated relationship with his own desires.

Eventually, Maurice, by now a successful artist, begins seeing a therapist, and the pieces of the emotional mosaic begin to click together powerfully. The back-and-forth between his mental health sessions and his day-to-day relationships give the memoir its most revelatory uplift.

Vellekoop — a veteran commercial illustrator, fashion artist and author whose books include gay erotica (this memoir includes graphic sexual content) — renders his memories beautifully, with expressive faces, liquid lines and effective palette shifts.



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