Page 45 Review by Jonathan
In which Olive Oyl channels her inner Jean Grey before going slightly Dark Phoenix...
I realise that is a slightly strange mash-up to suggest, but nevertheless, I'm going to stand by it. I also like bubble and squeak. Here is the publisher's blurb to obfuscate matters further...
"Sydney seems like a normal, rudderless 15-year-old freshman. She hangs out underneath the bleachers, listens to music in her friend's car, and gets into arguments with her annoying little brother - but she also has a few secrets she's only shared in her diary. Like how she's in love with her best friend Dina, the bizarre death of her war veteran father, and those painful telekinetic powers that keep popping up at the most inopportune times.
After his first two critically heralded graphic novels, CELEBRATED SUMMER and THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD, Forsman once again expertly channels the teenage ethos in a style that evokes classic comic strips while telling a powerful story about the intense, and sometimes violent, tug of war between trauma and control.
I AM NOT OKAY WITH THIS collects all of Forsman's self-published mini-comic series into one volume. It comments naturally on familial strain, sexual confusion, and PTSD in his usual straight-faced-but-humorous style, and firmly stakes his place among the world's best young cartoonists."
Yes, Sydney has a few issues, and indeed secrets too, for sure. Like those telekinetic powers she hasn't got control of... Or her temper, which she isn't remotely in control of, either. Now that's a great combination right?
Acting as our narrator whilst writing her private thoughts in a diary given to her by the student guidance counsellor, Ms. Capriotti, (to perhaps help her mitigate her self-confessed moods a little better) Sydney reveals all to us. Her story is indeed that of a typical angst-ridden teenager grappling with fairly normal adolescent problems, albeit with some collateral damage from the... loss... of her father. Yes, that certainly is a 'bizarre death'.
For such an in-your-face gritty story, there is a lot of surprisingly subtle and sophisticated story-telling going on here, particularly at the emotional level. In that sense, Charles certainly tells a tale as powerfully as the likes of Daniel GHOST WORLD Clowes and Adrian SHORTCOMINGS Tomine.
Artistically, I completely understand the 'in a style that evokes classic comic strips' quote, as to me Sydney definitely has more than a look of Popeye's squeeze about her. There's another point of classic reference too (at least), I think, but I can't quite put my finger on it, annoyingly. It actually took me a while to settle into reading this due to the art, as I found with both of his previous works.
It's possible that Charles's choice of art style is the only real hurdle to him gaining a much wider readership as unlike Clowes and Tomine, he doesn't necessarily deploy what could be described an immediately appealing style. But all power to him for that, though, he's certainly clearly a highly talented creator who is obviously very happy creating his own corner of comicdom misery for his characters.