cover image Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not

Gabriel Howell. Secret Acres, $19.95 trade paper (64p) ASIN B09QF1WC8V

Howell debuts with a collection of darkly poetic vignettes that use the aesthetic of Victorian-era children’s books to capture personal riffs on such contradictions as strength vs. vulnerability, visibility vs. privacy, and artistic creation vs. suffering. These play out through four doll-like young girls named Complications, Heartache, Rebellion, and Commitment. The fifth major character is a shrouded figure who represents death, self-doubt, isolation, and mental anguish. Howell’s elegant black-and-white drawings depict the girls grimly engaging in childish horseplay, driven by a narrative that pokes at romanticized views of insecurity, suffering, and visibility. One drawing represents the girls hanging around a tree, with caption boxes stating, “Self proclaimed broken people can paint beautiful pictures.... I don’t want to know pain just to find meanings.” Elsewhere, Howell insists that being strong takes its toll: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I don’t want to be brave again and again.” Eventually, the girls engage the shrouded figure in a fight to the death, with the suggestion that they are destined to do this repeatedly. Art comics aficionados will find much to appreciate in Howell’s edgy, Gothic vision. (Nov.)