Renee French's existential situation-comedy Baby Bjornstrand gets at the heart of teen boy interactions as well as the ways all humans seek connection and meaning. In a surreal, alien landscape, a trio of humanoid boys named Cyril, Marcel, and Mickey are bantering and insulting each other when they discover an impassive, mostly silent, and bulbous creature they name Bjornstrand.
Bjornstrand becomes an obsession for Cyril, who treats the creature as a new pet. Cyril's devotion to Bjornstrand turns into a point of mockery for the other boys, who even go so far as to stage a theater show to make fun of their friend. In time, however, Marcel and Mickey come to accept Bjornstrand, even if the only noise it makes is"Hoooooo."
French confounds the reader in each of the vignettes that make up the book's twenty-one chapters. Baby Bjornstrand offers no explanations, no backstory, and no easy resolutions. One chapter features Bjornstrand defending the boys from a flying creature. The creature then seeks to bond with Bjornstrand, who simply vomits on it.
French mixes fuzzy, moody backgrounds with simply rendered figures. Rather than use word balloons, French uses color to connect characters with their speech: each figure lights up the same color as their dialogue. Baby Bjornstrand resembles a children's narrative in the way it boils down relationships to their cores. The give and take between vulgar humor (several chapters include spot-on fart jokes) and the poignancy of the boys' relationships makes Baby Bjornstrand a compelling read.
Rob Clough writes about comics for The Comics Journal, Study Group Magazine, Infinity, and his own blog, High-Low (highlowcomics.blogspot.com). He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, daughter, and two cats.
© 2015 by Rob Clough