Dancing After TEN

Vivan Chong and Georgia Webber. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (168p) ISBN 978-1-68396-316-5
The process behind this collaborative graphic memoir by Chong and Webber (Dumb: Living Without a Voice) is as noteworthy as its unusual illness narrative, even if the life lessons imparted by Chong don’t quite land. She is vacationing in Saint Martin with her roommate (and ex-boyfriend), Seth, and his family, when Chong has a severe reaction to a medication, leading to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis syndrome, a coma, protracted and humiliating medical treatments, and scar tissue that causes visual and later hearing impairment. Seth abandons her as soon she is hospitalized. Her current boyfriend, Michael, who finds her after she is air-lifted to Toronto, is more responsible but still no prize. She finally confronts Seth, who oozes self-centered shame, and forgives him during a role-playing exercise in a healing workshop, an activity no doubt more satisfying for the participant than the reader. Chong finds artistic outlets, including stand-up comedy and developing this memoir, which she begins originally as a theatrical endeavor after surgery temporarily restores some of her sight. While uneven in character development, the artistic collaboration is thoughtful—Chong’s shaky and unfinished sketches alternate with Webber’s more professional renditions in firmer lines with teal shading. Webber’s own prior graphic memoir described losing her voice; the dance between their styles illustrates how artists with differing experiences and abilities can partner to make art that’s elevated by the experiment. Chong’s conclusion that “freedom is forgiveness” doesn’t resonate nearly as much as the work’s subtler implication, that freedom is resilience and teamwork. (May)
Reviewed on : 03/05/2020
Release date: 06/02/2020
Genre: Comics
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