Page 45 Review by Stephen
A collection of Tillie's three longform comics with Avery Hill: 'I Love This Part,' 'The End of Summer,' and 'A City Inside.' Plus the early sketches, short comics for magazines and webcomics such as 'What It's Like To Be Gay In An All-Girls Middle School' that shot her to fame on both sides of the Atlantic and have never been collected before.
Here are our Stephen's reviews of the three main stories...
First up is... I Love This Part.
It's my favourite part.
"Can we ever tell anybody?"
Simple, subtle, sublime.
Two girls share experiences, confide in each other and reassure each other gently.
They explore landscapes together, looking out, over or nestling within them. This is the sweet languor of youth when you still have time to rest supine and stare at the sky up above you.
There's an intimacy right from the start in the way they inhabit those landscapes, absorbing a song, one ear-bud each, or crouched under a duvet in front of a laptop with a night-time cityscape rising behind them, its tiny, square, skyscraper windows brightly lit while their monumental silhouettes stand out, crisp and bold, against white and purple-tinged clouds.
"I got an ipod Shuffle once for Hanukkah and it really stressed me out that I never knew what song was next."
That made me smile. It's true, isn't it, that we enjoy the segue from one song to another on an album we love, subconsciously anticipating what we know will come next as the final chords on the current one fade or when it concludes in a blistering crescendo? It's the same with any mix-tape you've made.
So here's the thing: the story is told in single-panel pages and if the landscapes are so often majestic - mountains, canyons, valleys - then the two girls are equally epic and so completely at one with them.
Their positioning is perfect and the sense of scale is breathtaking. Tillie Walden already demonstrated an adoration of Windsor McCay's LITTLE NEMO in THE END OF SUMMER; here she takes that influence and makes of it something uniquely her own. Winsor thought like this, but he never did this. There's also that dreamlike comfort to it. Or at least there is to begin with.
Initially each full-page panel features both girls in synch, either side by side or opposite each other, but then there's a brief falling-out over a photo uploaded onto social media without the expressed consent of the other. It's still gentle and the kindness - the reassurance - remains. But there follows a telling page in which they're no longer completely as one but staring in different directions and, oh, the art is exquisite as one girl's swimsuit hugs tight while the other's dress billows carefree in a breeze.
Gradually there encroach pages in which only one or neither girl features, silence falls and texting begins instead.
Never forever, I promise you, for this is far from linear but it's in marked contrast to what went before when their relationship morphs as they tentatively explores new territories, not necessarily successfully.
Aaaaaand we're still only a fraction of a way in.
The comic's not long but it's still substantial, begging you to linger and rewarding you if you do.
It's fiercely well observed with incredible understanding and empathy but without demanding you recognise that, for so much is left to be said by the silences. I'm in awe of that confidence. And if it isn't confidence then it's one massive leap of faith in an approach which is an unequivocal success.
I could type ten more paragraphs precisely proving in which ways Walden has achieved that - I honestly could - but I'm here to intrigue you to discover the rest for yourselves rather present evidence for my assertions once again for the university examining board.
Since the original softcover of I LOVE THIS PART, Tillie went on to produce A CITY INSIDE which includes one of the most romantic lines ever written:
"You gave up the sky for her."
Then, aged all of 21, she produced the autobiographical SPINNING, one of Page 45's fastest-selling graphic memoirs of all time, which provides a personal context to I LOVE THIS PART and, most unexpectedly, an answer to what happened next.
Then we have... The End Of Summer...
Well, would you just look at this architecture!
Vast arches, vaulted ceilings and windows several storeys high; classical statues set inside concave bays; halls which conclude with the opulence of a Roman cathedral's chapel. Could you get more Baroque than this?
Then there's the ethereal air, nightgowns and all that time spent in bed; an indoor lake on which the children go sailing; and a giant cat called Nemo.
Winsor McCay, anyone?
This is a family home! Also a haven from a three-year winter during which the doors must remain firmly closed, but for a sanctuary it doesn't seem very safe. It's cold and it's hard and there will be conflicts and confinements. I don't think this family is very healthy at all.
Quite apart from the fact that young Lars is dying. I'm not sure of what but he seems rather sickly, consumptive. He appears to be fading away. His closest relationship is with his sister, Maja, but that's also going to run into trouble. As I say, not the healthiest of families.
He's comforted by that giant cat which - when it's not carrying Lars on its back - is constantly curled up like a gigantic, fluffy, white pillow which is what Lars uses it as.
To be honest I wasn't sure what was happening towards the end. It's all very rarefied and the family far from distinctive. But it's very beautiful with the crispest of architecture which boasts the most enormous sense of space and attendant frigidity. You can almost hear the echoes.
Finally we have... A City Inside...
"You gave up the sky for her."
That's possibly the most romantic sentence ever written.
Another quiet, contemplative and sublime gem from Tillie Walden, creator of I LOVE THIS PART, a former Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month and one of my favourite little books in the shop.
Along with her autobiographical SPINNING - released aged 21 in 2017 and another Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month - this, from 2016 and now in hardcover, also comes with a sense of perspective which no one of Tillie's relatively tender years should possess.
Told in the second person singular, a young woman casts her mind across her life. It's so engrossing, so cleverly done that you won't notice the switch in tenses the first time around, and as it concludes you'll have forgotten where you came in so that the final three pages are truly startling.
The lines are crisp, the shadows deep and the night sky positively glows.
There's always something truly magical in Walden's work and at one point, as the pull quote suggests, the woman finds herself suspended in the sky, living in the cup of a hollow sphere, from the top of which billow curtains which are never truly closed. Can you imagine the view? Can you imagine the tranquillity, reading and writing and sleeping with your supine cat?
"Then one day, you met her."
She was cycling through the sky.
"She was beautiful, wasn't she?"
Yes, so what did you do?
"You gave up the sky for her." Obviously.
Bittersweet does not even begin to cover this tale.
Only once is there more than a single sentence per panel - quite often there is silence instead - and within the recollection itself those panels are bordered only by what lies within.
High in the sky, with the wind tossing the lanterns and tousling her hair, there are no borders at all.