cover image Leaving Richard’s Valley

Leaving Richard’s Valley

Michael DeForge. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (480p) ISBN 978-1-77046-343-1

Ignatz-winning cartoonist Deforge (Big Kids) succeeds in creating a weird, witty epic in this, the longest and yet most accessible of his graphic novels. Set in a Toronto where humans and animals (and other creatures, such as a heart shape with legs) have learned to communicate, Deforge follows the odyssey of four animals banished from the valley commune of titular cult leader Richard as they travel to the big city and back again. DeForge’s simple, curved figures are the foundation for a rambling narrative revolving around the lives of over two dozen characters. Reminiscent of other funny satirical animal comics such as Walt Kelly’s Pogo and Jon Lewis’s True Swamp, DeForge’s work pokes fun at celebrity culture, nihilistic musical movements, the arbitrary quality of utopian cults of personality, unfettered capitalism, and gentrification. It’s also about symbiotic relationships, what people owe to one another, the problematic qualities of love, and how various ethical systems play out. DeForge experiments with narrative and visual approaches, using the constraint of a four-panel grid. The art varies from stick figures to photorealism, and the story employs elements such as musical theater, documentary, and body horror. Incorporating the idiosyncratic visual elements and themes that have made DeForge an underground rising star, this fluid, funny narrative is poised to break out to a wider readership. [em](Mar.) [/em]