Overview

12 Reasons Why I Love Her GN

Review

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12 Reasons Why I Love Her GN

Credits

  • Words: Jamie S. Rich
  • Art: Jo?lle Jones
  • Inks: Jo?lle Jones
  • Colors: N/A
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Oni Press
  • Price: $12.95
  • Release Date: Oct 11, 2006

Infatuation, lust, jealousy, betrayal, hatred – 12 scenes depicting 12 different stages of an ongoing relationship, but they all equate to one elusive thing: love.

Novelist and ex-Oni EIC Jamie S. Rich teams-up with newcomer extraordinaire Joëlle Jones for an original romance graphic novel that is as simple and poignant as it is experimental and complex. Gwen and Evan are two urban twenty-somethings in love – but what does that mean? The book presents their relationship in twelve, non-chronological vignettes, primarily focusing upon the character of Gwen (this is, after all, titled "12 Reasons Why I Love Her") and how she is seen through the eyes of Evan, from their first, memorable, chance meeting (story twelve) to their relationship’s possible dissolution (story nine – I told you they were non-chronological!). Throughout it all, the question as purported by the title is ever-presently posed: why does he love her? While the set-up and the essential theme of the book are simple, what the reader walks away with will indelibly be more difficult to surmise. The relationship in question is deftly handled by Rich, with an honest allowance for both Evan and Gwen’s moral and emotional strengths and deficiencies, yet eventually Rich reaches a line of richness (pun intended) that he resolutely refuses to cross, resulting in an aesthetic that is surface-level sublime but ultimately (when the book is complete) weakened.

Rich’s script makes for a superlative romance graphic novel, and the book’s myriad sequences cover a broad range of artistic approaches. The majority of tales here are unfettered by atypical design, and allow for uncomplicated, slice-of-life vignettes that are as dramatically absorbing as they are light-hearted and warm. For a select few of the twelve sections, though, Rich chooses to study the character of Gwen from more poetic high-ground, meditating on her love for particular seasons, offensive humor, and even one in which Evan waxes sublimely romantic about one of Gwen’s dreams. These more representative sequences are beautiful in sight and sound – definitely the sections of the book that claim the more original and experimental qualities, thus allowing 12 Reasons to be more than a mere veiled-by-fiction autobiography – yet nonetheless these sequences lack a particular significance. They lack a perceptible tethering to the characters and their relationship and Rich fails at every opportunity to bolster them with additional dramatic weight. As successfully elegiac as the narratives are, they’re ultimately empty, resulting in a full-length GN that benefits terrifically from the use of alternating narrative rhythms, though one that equally suffers from lack of honest function. Rich obviously went for atmosphere over actual event, giving each of the twelve chapters its own "song" (written under the chapter heading of each) for readers to flow into the proper mood and aesthetic as they go, but for my money I wanted more actual story.

To be fair, Rich (as the writer) attempts not to present any personal judgments within the contexts of the story’s events, allowing the reader to relate and understand the moments from their own, subjective standpoints. Unfortunately, even the characters manage little in the way of solid arguments whether for or against the many facets of love and their modern manifestations. This makes for an open and subtle read, minimalist and philosophically uncontaminated. Yet it also leaves readers with little more than a blank slate, an ornate but empty bowl without a scrap of edible content to chew on. In short, we are left with few considerations outside of our own already established convictions to ponder upon when the book is over and closed. Even as a mere character study, the book is oddly light on voyeuristic heft, leaving the reader to watch a relationship as they would watch any relationship publicly as a third-wheel tag-along. Even though Evan and Gwen are alone, they banter and remain in relatively socially acceptable waters, never moving into anything personally headier.

So a script with precision pacing and an honest heart, but with an emphatic lack of thorough introspection; and where does Joëlle Jones fit into all this? Joëlle is the glamour, the gilt, the true hypnotic spell that yanks the reader so swiftly and powerfully into the world of Evan and Gwen, I swear I had to check to make sure my fingernails weren’t broken for trying to slow my fall! Her illustrations of Evan and Gwen are beautiful and frail, fallen and elevated concomitantly; her expressions are believable, recognizable, and affecting. In the aforementioned experimental sections she gets to strut her stuff with watercolor backgrounds, noir-like use of blacks, sidewalk-sketch portraiture, and her default, most often used technique for the more straight-forward scenes is cartoon, illustrative elegance at its finest. She was the perfect choice for Rich to bring onto the 12 Reasons book, and whatever flaws the script may suffer are more than covered and nearly forgotten by the startling grace of her portrayal of its contents.

12 Reasons Why I Love Her is the kind of book you’d get if Margaret Atwood came from the Hipster generation – it’s a big follower of the "less is more" policy, and so every reader, depending on their own love for such literary law, will be more or less drawn to its style based on such. From there, it’s chock-full of readily identifiable, modern romantic drama as seen from the me-generation standpoint. The artwork by Jones though, one way or the other, is more than worth the price of admission, and anyone looking for the next unputdownable, read-in-one-sitting graphic novel can’t go wrong ogling over her pages and soaking up the admittedly irresistible and effortlessly recognizable antics of Evan and Gwen. It isn’t the strongest romance book comics can potentially give, but it just may be the best yet published.

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