Art has a long history of presenting narratives, and the only thing that has changed in the development of comics, and the contemporary graphic novel is form. Michelangelo's portrayal of biblical events on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and the depiction of Roman conquest in Trajan's Column are both examples of narrative art that are upheld historically and critically.
Now, let's see if we can critique this book by the standards it deserves.
Thompson's Blankets uses pictures to tell the story of his fall from Christian fundamentalism to a more humanist appreciation for life and love; though this disillusionment and coming of age was from having lost in first love. The story in and of itself is about the power of the question over the individual, and the power of doubt as a source of liberation.
In the course of the story, the blanket becomes a symbol of human contact, which protects people the cold of the outside world. When Raina gives Craig a blanket she made, it comes to symbolize their relationship and the warmth it provides him, and when they later share that blanket, he is in a state of bliss. And in Craig's childhood, he fights with his brother for the blanket, connoting the need for space.
Facial features on the characters are rather Eisneresque in their emphasis on the way flesh clings to and hangs from bones. This emphasizes a sympathetic approach to human beings that you would not find in the likes of Crumb, where the emphasis is on muscles and the rolls of fat, which emphasize the carnal aspects of human nature.
Thompson's 'mise en scene' (to borrow a cinema term) tends to focus mostly on these faces and the situation as experienced by the characters are secondary. This technique invites playfulness and empathy, and it also invites us into the imagination of the characters. What's more, Thompson does not obsess over details, and is sparse in his choice of what to illustrate. He will often use perspective to direct our eyes in the direction of where the characters are looking, and this strengthens our empathy for the characters.
Blankets, like many graphic novels, also relies on the principles of “the grid”, a key framework in publication design. Put simply, imagine a blank page and divide it into a grid with columns and rows of equal spacing; now, each subject is free to take up one square or the neighbouring ones, forming various shapes with which we can place images or text.