Pascal Girard's going to his school reunion….. pity him.
By Pascal Girard
Drawn & Quarterly
So far the score with Pascal Girard’s work is something like won one, lost one. I adored Nicolas when it arrived, a debut fully formed, packed with raw, intense emotion. Yet the follow up; Bigfoot, although technically brilliant, and full of all the things that should have hooked me in, just didn’t do it for me.
Well, this third graphic novel, an autobiographical tale of the twenty something Girard having a minor meltdown at the prospect of attending his ten-year high school reunion, is at least something of a return to form. Still not absolutely hitting me like Nicolas did, but I found it far more enjoyable and just as well observed as Bigfoot.
(Pascal imagines his ideal reunion, a dream of his past life as a winner, but it’s oh so obviously not the case. From Reunion by Pascal Girard, published by Drawn & Quarterly)
Poor Pascal is settling into a good life. A burgeoning career as a cartoonist, settled and happy relationship, his own place… but all it takes is the ten-year reunion announcement to throw everything up in the air. Although he’s quick to point out he was one of the popular kids, he’s plagued by a feeling that his life since high school has yet to live up to his own expectations, nevermind those of his former classmates. And everything gets far worse when he gets an email from the lovely Lucie Côte, his major high-school crush.
Completely unsettled, he starts fretting, starts dieting, starts Facebook stalking, starts a bizarre fantasy life, convinced the weight loss will put him firmly into the winner category he failed to achieve throughout high school.
(Dieting, fantasising, obsessing – oh, it’s all going to go horribly wrong. From Reunion by Pascal Girard, published by Drawn & Quarterly)
And all the while his poor partner has to put up with it all, watching as Girard’s nerves, already a source of problems, become more and more shredded as the big day approaches.
Of course, once he actually makes it to the reunion everything he’s carefully imagined, all the ways he’s about to reclaim some coolness, it all fails to pieces as he spectacularly, comedically, fails to impress. Worse, he actually manages, through clumsiness and awkwardness, to offend and insult almost everyone he intended to impress.
(At the reunion. It’s not going as Pascal expected. But it is going just like we expected. From Reunion by Pascal Girard, published by Drawn & Quarterly)
As autobiography it’s a delightfully observed tale, full of painful comedy moments, with Girard really going to town on himself, painting a portrait of the artist as a neurotic mess, and encouraging us to laugh at his ridiculous behaviour. Sure, it’s obviously only semi-autobiographical, but it’s always painfully impressive to see someone willing to flagellate themselves in print for their art.
And his art, back to simplistic black and white after the rather disappointing colour of Bigfoot is back to it’s best – bereft of either captions or panel borders the whole thing has an impressive mix of simplicity and chaotic, twitchy lines (a perfect match for the artist’s chaotic, twitchy nervous state I imagine).
Girard still hasn’t attained the heights he reached with Nicolas, but here, in his third graphic novel, he’s back on good form. I can only hope, only expect, his next to be even better.