“Li’l Depressed Boy” has got a special place in our hearts here at Multiversity, and every now and then we just have to check in on him. But rather than being that trainwreck of a friend who always needs your help at the worst times (as the title would seem to suggest), this comic is more like the friend who shows up at your door with a box of donuts and maybe a couple Adventure Time DVDs. It just keeps giving, and every issue is a treat — even when the actual content is less than sunny.
The great thing about this issue, though, is that things actually are sunny; even as a sense of impending doom hovers over the whole proceedings, these may be some of the happiest moments in the series so far. It’s a harrowing balance, but this issue manages it beautifully.
Written by S. Steven Struble
Illustrated by Sina Grace
“IT’S NOT A LIE, IT’S A SECRET”
Things are moving fast with the Li’l Depressed Boy and his new girl, but can they survive keeping their relationship hidden? Featuring a cover by amazing poet and The Feather Room author, ANIS MOJGANI.
Enjoying a day off work, and getting to spend some time with Spike along the way, LDB’s got a lot to be happy about. But between open-to-close shifts, a belligerent boss, and one heck of a cliche’d performance review, he’s got plenty of big stuff waiting for him when he gets back to work.
The wonderful/terrible thing about this issue is that at literally every page, you’re expecting the shoe to drop. Things have been going so well lately between LDB and his new girlfriend Spike that all the threats hanging around in the background wind up rushing to the forefront of your mind while you read even when they’re not mentioned. LDB’s boss in particular is just such a nasty, familiar character — we’ve all had a supervisor or boss like this, or at least known somebody who does, and just having that belligerent guy around ratchets up the tension like nothing other. Add that performance review to everything else and the last half of the issue is downright nervewracking.
The moments between LDB and Spike, meanwhile, are as lovely as they are understated. It would be easy to have them spout a bunch of a back-and-forth quips like LDB and Jazz did, but instead Struble and Grace just let these characters chill out for a bit. It’s a brave move to keep things quiet when you’ve got two characters with quirk to spare, and this reluctance to be clever or cute is probably the strongest aspect of a strong issue overall. LDB and Spike’s relationship isn’t a melodrama of its own, but an escape from that sort of thing, and their scenes reflect that sense of peace. It’s the dichotomy between this peace and all the horrible stuff at the theatre that creates the drama, especially when Spike tries to mediate between them.
All the while, and as had been the case throughout the series, it’s difficult to point out what it about Sina Grace’s art that makes it so great. It’s such a perfect match in tone to the script that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Grace makes wordless panels sing, and adds all kinds of atmosphere and spaciousness to ones that do have dialogue. The understated quality of the art complements the humour when it comes up, but underscores the melodrama of a situation as well. There’s definitely a deadpan quality to the whole, but LDB himself is endlessly expressive and so is Spike, and this makes their quiet moments in this issue all the more powerful. Struble’s colours, meanwhile, lay out LDB’s world with an arresting mix of drab and vibrant. It’s not often in comics that find offices as depressing and hilltops as gorgeous as the ones you find in this issue, and the range in tone (both emotionally and in terms of colour) makes this a truly enjoyable read.
All told, we’re still in love with “Li’l Depressed Boy”. It’s stayed consistently emotional and subtle and sweet and heartening for fifteen issues now, but it still doesn’t feel like it’s repeating itself. This book keeps avoiding that trap — the one where we stop caring, and tell LDB to grow up — because LDB is growing, right before our eyes. And as he goes along, he’s subverting everything that’s “little” and “depressed” about himself and his situation, just by being able to be happy. That shoe is definitely going to drop soon, if the last page of this issue is any indication, but with all the emotional development happening here, my feeling is that at the end of it all we’ll still have an LDB who’s grown and changed for the better. And that’s pretty exciting.
Final Verdict: 9.5 — Buy