Page 45 Review by Jonathan
This is a work which will affect or appeal to people in entirely different ways. That's apt indeed, for from a subjective standpoint, everyone is unique, including those people who are unfortunate enough to suffer with mental illness. Some people reading this graphic novel will simply admire the truly beautiful artwork from the ten diverse and extremely talented artists which Ravi has managed to assemble. Some will be mesmerised and entranced by the sensate stream of consciousness poetry that provides some measure of insight into the fractured inner world of Ravi's brother Rob. Others, having experience of what mental illness can do to a family member or loved one - perhaps resulting, as in Rob's case, in the sad decision to take their own life - will certainly find this work deeply, personally affecting.
However, with all that said, whilst we as human beings like to think we are so very good at putting ourselves in someone else's place, seeing the world through their eyes, for those individuals whose waking moments can flutter between the highs of near transcendence to the depths of utter purgatory in the mere time it takes for a butterfly to spread its wings, we simply cannot truly know what it is to be like them: to feel, at times, as cruelly and painfully isolated as they do from the rest of us. Because, make no mistake, from a relative standpoint nothing and no one is separate. To have the perception, however, that this is the case, can be the cause of such mental turmoil and suffering, that I personally can understand why someone would choose to end it, even at the expense of their own existence.
Taken as a whole, this work provides a window into both Ravi and Rob's experience of his struggles with his schizophrenia. The 'Year' chapters, in the traditional sequential art comics form, illustrated by Leonardo M. Giron, reveal the story from Ravi's perspective, showing us moments of joy, despair, hope and resignation, as she tries to support her brother as best she can. These are separated with sequences containing poetry inspired by the extensive body of work Rob left behind, and they vary considerably stylistically in art terms, from what we would again consider traditional comics through to what could probably be accurately described as illustrated prose, though I would contend these sequences are also still very much comics as the artwork does significantly inform the intended narrative in conjunction with the prose in a sequential manner. What these differences in style neatly attest, though, is that the mind of a schizophrenic is an extremely rich, complex, yet fluid and volatile place to inhabit.
I think in terms of portraying Rob's story, Ravi succeeds admirably. I was moved to tears in several places, by certain incidents or nuances that created a deep, emotional resonance within me, much like I experienced with Nicola Streeten's BILLY, ME & YOU. I did quite deliberately not read this work on the tram this time though, suspecting I might need my hankie at close hand. It's just so damn hard to see someone's suffering brought to life so eloquently through their own words, and so poignantly and illuminatingly illustrated, knowing as you do that ultimately there is no happy ending, well, not at least in the traditional sense. With some people who take their own lives, you can tell there may well have been a palpable element of fear and desperation involved, with others, merely the knowledge that peace would finally prevail. I certainly gained some sense of the latter with Rob.
Art-wise, this work is truly an absolute visual smörgåsbord. Firstly, the 'Year' chapters by Leonardo M. Giron are magnificently understated, with a deliberately subdued, almost pastel palette and a slightly chalky feel to the colouring. There is one slight exception to this involving a very special butterfly in the final chapter of which I shall say no more. The art accompanying the poetry is mostly, in contrast, extremely rich and vibrant, with a real eclectic mix of styles. There are a couple of obvious, almost monochromatic exceptions, but they are entirely in keeping with the mood of the moment. It's hard to pick a favourite, but I can honestly say, as a man who isn't massively into poetry, they all really beautifully capture the essence of Rob's words and thus help convey the not-so merry-go-round of his ever-shifting, kaleidoscopic emotional states. Another impressive addition to the canon of works dealing frankly with mental illness, alongside the likes of PSYCHIATRIC TALES, DEPRESSO, MARBLES, LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW.