This Issue

July/August 2014

Clough on Comics

Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir

Nicole J. Georges

Softcover, black and white, 288 pages, available from Mariner Books

Many families keep secrets from their children, usually in an attempt to protect them from knowledge adults find hurtful or shameful. Nicole J. Georges's memoir Calling Dr. Laura investigates this turf: Georges, who grew up believing her father had died of cancer, learns that he is still alive.

The rest of the book deals with the strained and emotionally turbulent relationship between Georges and the mother who lied to her. Flashbacks show Georges's childhood body shame with honesty, and the emotionally direct, simple renderings give the scenes great impact. But the present-day narrative is filled with tedious digressions about Georges's crumbling relationship with her girlfriend, and the decision to use a lush, naturalistic line in illustrating these scenes adds to their narrative drag. Georges comes off as a passive-aggressive character, unwilling to act decisively. It's not until the gut-punch ending where she learns her dad's final fate that she becomes a character readers can sympathize with. 

The Property
RutuModan, translated by Jesicca Cohen
Hardcover, full color, 232 pages, available from Drawn & Quarterly 

In Rutu Modan’s fictional The Property, the secret surrounding the book’s protagonist, Regina, forms the backbone of a complex, witty, and raw exploration of family politics and guilt. Regina travels to Warsaw for the first time since fleeing the Holocaust, her granddaughter Mica in tow. Her supposed intention is to reclaim a family property. Modan slyly reveals the central family secret early on, even as she takes the reader through a series of narrative twists, turns, and dead ends. Even after Regina tracks down an old lover, revealing that her intentions aren’t what they seemed, Modan continues to deftly deflect reader expectations right up to the emotionally wrenching but uplifting climax. 

Rob Clough writes about comics for The Comics JournalStudy Group MagazineInfinity, and his own blog, High-Low. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, daughter, and two cats.

© 2014 by Rob Clough