Overview

Days of the Bagnold Summer

Review

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Days of the Bagnold Summer

Credits

  • Words: Joff Winterhart
  • Art: Joff Winterhart
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape
  • Price: £9.99
  • Release Date: Jun 21, 2012

Stroppy, monosyllabic adolescence and resigned, weary middle age come crashing together in a tender and agonising clash of generations.

Daniel Bagnold is 15 years old and this was the summer he was meant to be spending with his father and his pregnant stepmother in America. Instead he’s stuck at home in England for the entire holidays with his mother Sue, a library assistant of 52, and their aged and decrepit labrador Maisie.

For surly teenager Daniel this development means hanging out with his obnoxious best friend Ky (unique selling point: “I’m famous for my hats”), not missing out on six weeks of Kerrang! magazine, and trying to pluck up the courage to make contact with the children who make up the Heavy Metal band practising in a local garage. For mum Sue it will be a month and a half of largely pointless attempts at communication with her sullen son, melancholy contemplation on the inevitability of middle age and wistful reflections on a past that seemed so full of promise.

Days of the Bagnold Summer is structured in a series of one-page strips each comprised of six panels. Some of these are more self-contained episodes, reaching natural “punchlines” in the course of their telling. Others feed into longer ongoing plotlines or thematic story threads. It boasts a cast that initially appear to be caricatures of gauche teens and those in the throes of mid-life crises. But Winterhart is deft in his ability to make the audience appreciate that however grotesque the characters may at first appear, they are actually wonderfully realised and, when we fully consider it, easily recognisable as people we have all met. Or, more pertinently, as people we have actually been or may yet be in the years to come…

The humour throughout is both exquisitely observed and painfully delivered. In Daniel and Sue we have a mother and son divided by an emotional distance that, at times, seems insurmountable – awkward mutual shopping trips for example, or the barriers Daniel erects to avoid contact with his mother like his near surgically attached MP3 player. Yet, at other moments, there’s a bond between the two that emphasises how inextricably they are linked, as Winterhart skilfully displays in two quite beautifully played scenes – the first seeing Sue looking after her drunken, vomiting son when he returns from a night out, and the second revolving around the ailing family dog. And, through it all, Winterhart’s seemingly understated art can say more about a character’s internal thoughts with one nuanced facial expression or hunched-up posture than any number of words could.

At turns deeply poignant and desperately funny, Winterhart’s creations will touch you in a way that few comics characters do. Days of the Bagnold Summer sees stroppy, monosyllabic adolescence and resigned, weary middle age come crashing together in a tender and agonising clash of generations.

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