Can we still be friends? Katherine thinks so
Written and illustrated by Mawil
Since Richard’s reviewed one of the new releases from Blank Slate Books (Trains Are Mint, reviewed here), I thought I’d take a look at the other one: We Can Still Be Friends by German cartoonist Mawil. I picked the book up with some trepidation, because it seemed like a kind of book that I’d read before, more than once. There is no shortage of black-and-white autobiographical comics in which a slightly nerdy, white, male, middle-class cartoonist talks about his troubles with women. And sure enough, the content of We Can Still Be Friends is nothing new; but the way Mawil tells his stories makes it stand out from the crowd.
There are four stories here, all of them tales of unrequited and frustrated longing. Mawil frames the stories as anecdotes told over a round of beers during a night at the pub, so that in between incidents we get to hear his friends’ remarks – sometimes supportive, sometimes not so much.
(a great tradition in many a country, spilling your emotional troubles to friends over beer; art and (c) Mawil)
This contributes to the overall air of self-deprecation. Mawil’s not boasting, nor is he begging for sympathy. The whole thing has a casual, intimate feeling, as if we, his readers, were sitting with him in the bierkeller. In this way it reminded me of Frederik Peeters’ Blue Pills; although the subject matter is a lot less serious, I came away from it with the same feeling of having shared a late-night conversation with a friend.
(we’ve all been there! A scene from We Can Still Be Friends, published Blank Slate and (c) Mawil)
Mawil’s drawing style is loose and cartoony, perfect for capturing the volatile emotions of a young man in love. As is typical for Continental cartoonists, he sticks to a pretty rigid panel structure throughout, and exploits that structure for all it’s worth, producing beautiful pages like the one below:
(clever use of the normal frame sequence to give an overhead pan of the scene, (c) Mawil)
This review is a bit short, as is the book: We Can Still Be Friends is only 66 pages long. It says something about the book that my only complaint is that I’d have liked it to be longer. This is the first work by Mawil that I’ve read, and I hope it won’t be the last.
Katherine Farmar writes regularly on comics and culture from around the world, you can read more on her comics blog Whereof One Can Speak.