by Graham Annable
Two-color, 48 pgs, $6.95 US / Higher in Canada
It really is impressive how some people can do so much with so little. Take comics creator Graham Annable for instance: his Grickle and Further Grickle collections are comprised of a series of short comic stories populated with characters that are little more than stick figures, and yet the tales are filled with poignancy, humour, sadness and triumph. He manages to do this because he is able to convey truth that resonates in both his illustrations and his words. This is as evident in Stickleback as it is in Grickle and Further Grickle.
Where Stickleback differs from these previous efforts is in its length. At 48 pages, Stickleback is Annable’s longest comics endeavour to date, a complete story in which George Stickleback, an artist trying to stay focused on completing his work for an upcoming exhibit, is cajoled to leave his home to help a friend. This friend, Yanni, wants George’s opinion on a medical condition. George, not one to bandy words and not entirely happy to be sitting in a diner with Yanni when he should be home working on his art, simply tells Yanni to go to a doctor. Yanni is scared though; terrified that in testing his current odd affliction the doctors will discover untold horrors infecting his body. George’s patience is tried and ultimately comes to a boiling point when he has a run in with some young punks loafing around outside the diner.
If the story sounds straightforward that’s because it is. It’s a linear tale, a simple story at the surface, but one that is a surprise from beginning to end. It is this way thanks to Annable’s absurdist view. George’s art and Yanni’s affliction are absurd, but that is okay because these aren’t the things that tell the story; they are devices in the story. The tale itself is that of George’s journey from creative stagnation, to frustration, to inspiration, all thanks to his friend’s twisted, sickly finger.
Here in Stickleback, Annable makes a change in his illustration style. The figures that were little more than stick representations of the human form in Grickle and Further Grickle are given more depth and detail, though they still remain deceptively simple. Annable also gives more detail to his backgrounds, thus crafting a more tangible sense of space then seen in his previous endeavours. The effect only enhances what Annable is able to convey with his simple character drawings. In reading Stickleback and then reviewing its panels again and again, I continue to marvel that he is able to convey so much with so little. I guess that is why he’s the artist and I’m the reviewer delivering praise to his door. (Chad Boudreau)