Thursday , May 23 2024
So Long Sad Love

Graphic Novel Review: ‘So Long Sad Love’ by Mirion Malle, from Drawn+Quarterly

So Long Sad Love

So Long Sad Love by Mirion Malle, translated by Aleshia Jensen and published by Drawn and Quarterly, tells the story of the end of a relationship and the healing that comes afterward. Many romances focus on a couple’s first coming-together, and there are an increasing number of stories centering on recovering a sense of self when one has for so long been a pair. But Malle gives her own take on the collapse of a relationship and the chapter after it. Like many of her previous works, such as This is How I Disappear and League of Super Feminists, So Long Sad Love feels like a story that has been waiting to be told.

So Long Sad Love begins in medias res with the protagonist, cartoonist Cleo, signing at a convention and running into fellow creators. The meeting sets up the world-within-a-world of comic arts, a closely-knit community where everyone knows everyone. It is much like a small town in which there is always dirty laundry, yet its population spreads out into the rest of society. One of Cleo’s friends comments on her own program, calling it “a really small group of super tedious, small-minded people” and comparing it with the drama as Cleo learns a dark story of obsession and harassment from her boyfriend’s past.

So Long Sad Love

Malle explores the complex nature of relationships, stemming from each person’s own complexities. Her boyfriend, Charles, is charming, outgoing, and supportive of Cleo’s projects, at least the ones he approves of. These are qualities pleasing to Cleo after a former boyfriend’s mistreatment, but there is a line between support and control. When Cleo begins to learn of Charles’s history of obsessing after a fellow student during his college days, he becomes cryptic and dismissive. Like Cleo, the reader may want to believe Charles’s version of the events and that he has grown since then, but the secrets become deeper and Cleo begins to feel a bad sense that she, too, could be smothered.

The story is largely driven by dialogue, which makes reading it feel like a conversation. Sometimes the reader is overhearing, peering into Cleo’s world. For most of the story, however, it is like the reader is by Cleo’s side. From there, the reader shares in the emotional turmoil with empathy while still being unable to influence her decisions. Cleo’s friends, too, cannot force her to act, only share their thoughts and encourage her to do the right thing.

Malle’s art in So Long Sad Love leans more toward realism than her previous works, fitting well with the very real setting of the story. Screens play a major role in the storytelling, just as they do in our modern world in carrying conversations. In a masterful touch, Malle flavors her art with colors that are bold but in a dour palette, matching not only modern fashion in Malle’s characters’ very fashionable dress but also Cleo’s sullen mood. As Cleo comes into her new life, the colors change to brighter hues, especially in her new friend wearing a bright red top.

So Long Sad Love

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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