cover image Truth Is Fragmentary: Travelogues and Diaries

Truth Is Fragmentary: Travelogues and Diaries

Gabrielle Bell. Uncivilized Books (Consortium, dist.), $19.99 trade paper (140p) ISBN 978-0-9889014-5-2

Bell’s self-deprecating and intimate tales about living in New York and traveling to comics events around the world present her life unvarnished: knowingly hilarious without contrivance or self-consciousness. Bell is an exceptional cartoonist (even when she’s apologizing, in panel, for her inability to mirror the proper “look” of a person) whose dexterity with figures and body language illuminates her own nonadventures and insecurities. Her use of tiny ink-washed panels on an eight-panel grid provides a firm foundation even when magical realism invades. Her tales are both mundane in origin and full of wonder—often on the same page. The panels brim with detail, capturing Bell’s uneasy confusion in a foreign country or an awkward situation, mixed with flights of fancy (a talking bear, a baby-in-a-box delivery, “catbackriding”). In one brilliant four-page sequence, Bell escapes from a bathroom she’s locked in with comic urgency fueled by her discomfort with the party outside. Refreshingly revelatory and charmingly accessible, this book follows up the previous autobiographical comics Lucky and The Voyeurs and easily solidifies Bell’s reputation as one of the greatest autobiographical cartoonists working. (May)