I got a copy of Aidan Koch's new book, The Whale, in the mail the other day. I hadn't heard of it before, but the publisher, Gaze Books, is pretty new as well. (They made their first announcement in July and The Whale is their first book.) A quick scan through reminded me of Blaise Larmee's Young Lions, which I reviewed back in April and it turns out that Larmee was the editor on this book.
The Whale is a short story about a woman whose friend/lover died in a car accident while she survived, more or less unhurt. She goes through the story trying to understand and cope with the event. Why she survived and her companion didn't. It's not about survivor's guilt, but more coming to grips with the randomness of the event and the sense of loss that followed. How does one carry on if life loses its purpose or meaning?
The art itself is what reminded me of Larmee's work. It's all printed from the original pencils, complete with eraser marks and the occasional smudge. The Whale is notably cleaner overall, though, and looks more like it was drawn with its being printed in mind. Where Koch's work significantly differs, though, is that she tends to be more consistent with his imagery. That is, where Larmee might illustrate the same characters with more or less detail to help focus the reader's attention on specific portions of the art, Koch instead applies a more uniform illustrative style throughout and focuses attention through page and panel layouts.
The story is also more coherently narrative in structure than Young Lions. There's decidedly more ambiguity in The Whale's resolution than, say, any given story arc from a mainstream publisher, but that's clearly the point. This is definitely more of a think-piece than what most people would publish. For all the comics that try to tackle the deep emotions surrounding someone's death, this is one of the more realistically introspective portrayals I've seen.
It's a quiet book overall. It's largely the protagonist by herself, and that's one of the things I like about it. She's looking inward to try to find some answers instead of distracting herself from her questions. There's no therapist or nosy co-workers or overly attentive relatives. She has to deal with her emotions herself and, ultimately, it's up to her how to handle them. It's an approach that is exceptionally rare, I find, and I applaud Koch for highlighting it here.
The Whale is available for $10 in the US, $13 internationally or $25 for the deluxe edition. They all can be purchased through the Gaze Books website.
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