Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Craig Thompson
Top Shelf Productions

When I was a kid, I was visited by my cousin the night before she was buried. (She died after a brain tumor operation.) Her silhouette stood in the darkness of my room, framed by the window, right beside my bed. Instinctively, I reached for my blanket. It was beyond reach. So I closed my eyes, taking quick peeks to see if she was still there (and indeed, she was), relinquishing all hope that my blanket won’t be there to protect me.

Craig Thompson’s follow up to his critically-acclaimed Goodbye Chunky Rice takes the common blanket as an allegory to our never-ending quest for protection. While, as children, our blankets served as shelter against the perceived evils of the night, we weave our own psychological and emotional blankets as we go through other stages of our lives, and these blankets take the form of our religions, our romances, our friendships and even our hopes for the future. And as each stage comes to pass, we’re obliged by choice or circumstance to let go of our blankets and allow ourselves to run naked and vulnerable, until the next blanket comes our way.

Blankets appears to be semi-autobiographical, as implied in its disclaimer and given that its lead character is named Craig. In this graphic novel's entire 540+ pages, Thompson toggles between past and present, taking us through the lead character’s early life with his brother Phil, then to high school where he falls in love with Raina, a sweet and adventurous girl whom he meets at Bible camp. During this entire course, we explore their families and the ironies that burden them, and eventually see how all these elements mold Craig’s view of himself and life.

Religion is a constant in Blankets, as the lead character goes through strings of Bible verses as they relate to his situation at hand. Here he questions its purpose and tenets, how it can be stifling and liberating at the same time. Ultimately he makes no general judgments about it, save that which only applies to him.

The beauty of Blankets lies in its honesty, made raw and compelling with Thompson's art style which brings to fore the medium’s advantages. Despite numerous transitions in the narrative, Thompson manages to keep the story flowing and immersive. Definitely for mature readers because of its breadth and depth, Blankets has that inexplicable quality that strikes chords despite its isolation. Though the ending felt a bit lukewarm and anti-climactic, the overall effect of Blankets cannot be discounted. We should allow ourselves to grow the way we see fit, it suggests, even if we have to let go of what we believe keeps us safe.

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