A Montreal art student finds love and a career in an unassuming graphic novel.
As in his Paul Has a Summer Job (2003), Rabagliati doesn’t aim for the big targets, and his output is all the better for it. His barely veiled recollections of his younger years—one wonders why he bothers changing his protagonist’s first name—are small, tightly focused narratives that eschew the larger world for intimate portraits and yet manage to avoid any sort of navel-gazing. This time around, Rabagliati details what happens before and after his character, well, moves out of his parents’ home. In 1979, Paul is a student at a commercial art school, and though he’s somewhat withdrawn behind goatee and longish hair, it doesn’t take much for fellow student Lucie to work her way into his heart. As their romance shyly blunders forward, the class is reinvigorated in its work by the arrival of a flamboyant and boundary-smashing new teacher, Jean-Louis, who comes bearing the standard of graphic design in all its bold new forms. He takes the class on a trip to New York, an experience that for all the fascination it engenders in Paul, only seems to reinforce his provincial Montreal attitudes. Soon, it’s 1983 and Paul and Lucie have moved into their starter apartment and their lives as freelance designers, a period of time that Rabagliati renders in a mood of easygoing whimsy that would be unbearably cloying were the medium straight fiction or memoir. Although there isn’t much that really stands in the way of Paul and Lucie’s forward movement as a couple—besides the occasional hitch, a relative’s funeral, or the unspoken tension that comes from a sudden desire to have children—Rabagliati knows he doesn’t have to resort to such measures. His gift for clean, effervescently drawn panels and engagingly innocent narratives more than makes up for the occasional fallow patch.
A growing-into-adulthood story told with lovable buoyancy.